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LETTERS ......... 3'2 


I. The Worth of the Soul . . . . f>7 

II. Lot ........ 7« 

III. Joseph and his Brethren . . . • .87 

IV. Gideon 102 

V. Ruth 109 

VI. Saul's Distress ...-•■ 121 
VII. Rizpah; or God's Remembrance op Oppressed Bondsmen. 129 
VIII. David's Lamentation for Absalom . . • L3-S 

IX. Jehoshaitiat Reproved ; or the Possible Mischief of 

Good Men's Inconsistencies . . ■ .167 

X. Jehoiada ...•••• 17 8 

XI. Baruch : Ambition Forbidden to Godly Men 192 

XII. Belshazzar . . . ■ • • .200 

XIII. Scriptural Views of Human Life: A Sermon on occasion 

of the Death of the Rev. Robert Newton, D.D. 212 

XIV. The Day of my Death . 233 
XV. Divine Protection . 

XVI. The Prayer of God's People . 
XVII. Men of the World ■ • 

XVIII. The Will of God Done in Earth as in Heaven . 2(^ 

XIX. The Three Crosses .-•■•• 
XX. On Conscience, Viewed in Connexion with Practical 

Judgment . 
XXI. Things which Make for Peace . • • 

XXII. Followers of God ..•••• 

XXIII. Doing all in the Name of Jesus . ■ • 

XXIV. The Contrast ..••■• 
XXV. The Final Judgment .-•■■■ 

XXVI. On Performing Duties with our Might 
XXVII. On Performing Duties with our Might (<:<»ui*u«i.) 3i.J 

91 2 







It was for years the cherished purpose of Mr. Keeling to 
prepare a volume of Sermons for publication. 

Manifold ministerial duties long prevented the carrying out 
of his purpose. 

When rest and leisure came to him through the advance of 
age and physical infirmities, he addressed himself, with the full 
strength of his mind, cheerfully to his literary work. 

Some of the Sermons have received his last finish, and all of 
them have been repeatedly revised and improved. They will 
be found to exhibit what he firmly maintained as essential 
elements in public discourses — clearness, vigour, naturalness, 
point and suggestiveness. 

They are published just as he left them by his own hand. 

May He who hath spoken to us by His Son, and in whom 
we have redemption according to the riches of His grace, 
wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and 
prudence, give His Holy Spirit to render this volume the 
means of conviction, of reproof, and of instruction in righteous- 

W W. 





The late Eev. Isaac Keeling was bum at Newcastle- 
under-Lyne, February 12th, 1789. He is described as a 
remarkably intelligent child, giving, at a very tender age, 
indications of those powers of mind which distinguished 
him in after life. He sometimes remarked, that though he 
could distinctly remember having the small-pox severely 
when between three and four years old, he could not recall 
the time when he was unable to read; and that Mr. Eodda, 
one of the early Methodist preachers, gave him the first 
sixpence he ever had, for reading the title-page of a book 
at the age of three. He could write before most children 
of his years could read ; and the delight with which he 
practised writing, with bits of chalk, on wood or stone, at 
every opportunity, before he knew the luxury of a pen, he 
has often described as a passion ; as also his love of 
drawing, in which he made voluntary attempts at a v<ry 
early period. An original design of his, in pen and ink, 
executed before he possessed such treasures as lead pencil 
and india-rubber, representing Autumn and Winter, is still 
in preservation, and is wonderful as the production of a 
child of six years and a half. 

His parents were godly and devout, and their home was 
a centre of religious and intellectual influence to their 



children. His father was a local preacher and class-leader, 
a man of poetic fervour and lively imagination, and a great 
reader, often rising at three or four in the morning to enjoy 
a favourite author, before commencing his daily toil at six. 
He died, "rejoicing in hope/' in his seventy-eighth year. 
His mother survived her husband eleven years. Of her 
sterling good sense and many excellences he often spoke 
with great filial tenderness and respect; and during her 
long widowhood he proved by more than words how 
deeply he loved and honoured her. Her "adorning" was 
eminently that " of a meek and quiet spirit," and her 
children rose up " and called her blessed." 

From about 1797 to 1803, he went to the best school in 
the neighbourhood, that of the late Mr. Thomas Kemp; 
but being of an excessively shy and retiring disposition, 
and during the first year of his attendance at the school, 
very much out of health, and consequently not able to be 
punctually in his place in the morning, his master treated 
him asL a sluggard. By degrees his force of character 
manifested itself; he proved to be an apt and diligent 
scholar; and his master henceforth watched his progress 
with pride and interest. His thirst for knowledge and 
choice of books were remarkable. Before he was ten years 
old, he had three times read Blair's Lectures through ; and 
he eagerly perused the "Spectator," Langhorne's transla- 
tions of Plutarch's Lives, a "History of Modern Europe," 
and similar works. The early reading of these, and the 
standard works in his father's well-selected library, exerted 
a plastic and permanent influence upon his tastes and 
habits, which, in after life, he regarded, and frequently 
referred to, as part of a providential training. Nor was 
his Bible neglected. Like Timothy of old, he "knew the 
Scriptures from a child." He has often spoken to his 
children of the intense pleasure and interest with which 
he studied Old Testament history, which he mastered so 

thoroughly, that he felt as if he had lived in their times, 
and shared in their trials, conflicts, and triumphs. The 
Word of God was hid in his heart, and became, in very 
deed, through life "a light unto" his "feet, and a lamp 
unto " his " path." " In age and feebleness extreme," 
when too weak to lift the Book, his delight was to have 
it so placed that he might turn over its familiar pages, 
and still search out its treasures of wisdom and consola- 
tion. His surviving brother, Mr. Enoch Keeling, of 
Etruria, thus sums up his recollections of him in regard 
to his love of books : — " As to his reading propensity, 
I have sometimes brought a book home in the evening 
from a library in Burslem, and as I was going down 
in the morning, he would be coming up, having read 
the book through during the night." At school he 
delighted and excelled in arithmetic and composition. He 
frequently wrote themes and essays for his elder fellow 
pupils before he was set to write them on his own account. 
When thirteen years old, after a close competition, in 
which the late Josiah Conder was a rival, he carried off a 
silver medal for an essay, " Showing, by argument and 
example, the inemcacy of human laws to repress crimes 
and immorality." 

He wrote verses too, in his school days, with considerable 
facility, some of which were so good that he had difficulty 
in maintaining his own authorship. In one instance he 
lost the first prize in a competition, because of his inability 
to convince the judges that the merit of the following four 
lines in particular was his own. 

" In drunkenness he drowns the human shape, 
Degrades his reason and becomes an ape ; 
His figure's but the mimic of a man, 
The rest declares him of the bestial clan." 

" The Inquiry after Happiness," a poem written at fifteen 
years of age, was published in the " Wesleyan-Methodist 

Magazine" for 1809. It contains the Inquiry, the Answer, 
and the Eesolve. We give the Eesolve as a specimen. 

Thanks to the friendly power, that deigns 

My devious steps to guide, 
From error's fascinating scenes, 

Where death and hell reside. 

Henceforth religion's call I'll hear, 

Her heavenly voice obey : 
May she my pensive moments cheer, 

My rebel passions sway ! 

May she her balm divine impart, 

And heal the wounds of sin ; 
Stamp Jesu's image on my heart, 

And plant His peace within ! 

May she my fallen powers restore, 

My soul for heaven prepare ; 
And when I here exist no more, 

Let me enjoy thee there ! 

Shortly after leaving school, he became the master of a 
large day-school, which he conducted in a public room 
offered % him for the purpose ; and among his pupils were 
many of his former schoolfellows, some of them older than 
himself. As a teacher, he had good success, having great 
aptitude and pleasure in imparting instruction, but the 
business details of the profession became thoroughly dis- 
tasteful to him ; and at length he turned his attention to 
engraving, in which his artistic power and skill opened 
fair, and even alluring, prospects before him. One of his 
designs, drawn while he was employed as an engraver, is 
still preserved, and possesses considerable merit ; it is also 
executed with great skill. 

From childhood he had been strictly conscientious 
and truthful; uniformly obedient to his parents; and, in 
addition to the hallowed influences of a religious home- 
training, he was no stranger to those special drawings 
from on high which are so constantly vouchsafed to the 
children of the upright. Thus he had been preserved from 


outward sin of every kind; but his sixteenth birthday, in 
February, 1805, found him unrenewed in heart, and con- 
demning himself as "vain, ambitious, and worldly." In 
September of the same year, his first Ticket as a member 
of Society is dated, and in the intervening months that 
mighty inward change had been effected which altered the 
whole course of his life ; and he set a seal to his profession, 
which, by the grace of God, he was enabled to adorn for 
sixty-four years. 

The account of his conversion, written to a friend, in 
1806, by his own hand, has happily been preserved, and is 
as follows : — 
"Dear Friend, 

"I intended writing to you soon after your departure, 
but have put it off from time to time ; however, I embrace 
this opportunity of opening my mind to you, and commu- 
nicating what I had neither courage nor time to tell you 
before you left us. You may remember my telling you 
that early last spring I read the ' Age of Eeason.' When 
I met with it, I was very ill prepared for such an attack. 
I was full of vanity and self-confidence, and habitually 
indulged ambitious views and vain imaginations; yet I 
had a tender conscience. I often felt condemnation, and I 
dared not sin with the multitude. When I first began to 
read Paine, I was shocked at the impious rashness of some 
of his assertions, and read with indignation ; but my insa- 
tiable curiosity impelled me to proceed, and I read on till 
I believed as little of Eevelation as Paine himself. (Here 
I may observe, this was probably permitted as a punish- 
ment for my immoderate indulgence in reading : many fall 
from grace by using lawful things unlawfully.) I con- 
tinued in this infidel state some time ; at the desire of my 
father and mother, I read 'Bishop Watson's Apology;" 
but this alone was not sufficient to satisfy all my doubts. 
However, what reading could not do, experience did ; I 


became weary of the world and all its enjoyments ; I sank 
into a hopeless, melancholy, slothful state of mind; I 
would have been glad to have returned to my original 
nothingness, and longed for death both of body and soul. 

" But before this time I had begun to read and admire 
the ' Economy of Human Life/ and became so fond of it, 
that I carried it in my pocket, and perused it at every 
opportunity. I was exceedingly pleased with the exalted 
views and descriptions it gave of various virtues, and I 
nattered myself I had found a good substitute for the 
Bible : but when I vainly endeavoured to verify these 
exalted and sublime ideas in my own actions and deport- 
ment, I was sadly disappointed. I discovered that the 
descriptions of the vanity, weakness, and dependent state 
of human nature, given in the Word of God, agreed much 
better with my own experience. I found that I was a 
weak, short-sighted mortal. I looked back on my past 
life, and saw myself changeable as the wind, and uncertain 
as the ocean : I saw that it was vain and fruitless to make 
resolutions, and to swim against the stream of my corrupt 
nature in my own strength. I saw that in the things of 
time and sense, there was nothing solid ; nothing capable 
of affording lasting pleasure ; nothing worth living for. I 
was humbled under a sense of my own weakness. I felt 
the fallibility of human reason, and the insufficiency of it 
as a rule of life ; and in some measure saw the necessity 
of a revelation to guide our opinions and to direct our 

"When I was thus weary of worldly pursuits, and 
humbled under a sense of my weakness, ignorance, and 
instability, God breathed into my soul a desire for the 
enjoyments of religion; I was led to examine my state, I 
began to relish godly books, and to break off my sins. In 
this state I went to the Methodist chapel ; and a sermon 
of the Bev. Edward Jackson's, on ' God be merciful to me, 

heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee,' was made a 
means of deepening my convictions. In the progress of 
the sermon I was enabled to see the deformity and sinful- 
ness of sin in a manner I never experienced before ; after 
the sermon he gave out the hymn which begins with 

' Arise, my soul, arise, 
Shake off thy guilty fears, &c. 

" and when he came to the last verse, 

' My God is reconciled, 

His pardoning voice T hear, 
He owns me for His child, 
I can no longer fear ; 
With confidence I now draw nigh, 
And, Father, Abba, Father, cry ! ' 

" These words affected me in a manner quite new to me, 
I found power to believe in Christ, and to come to Him 
for help and salvation. As I was going out of the chapel 
I felt a sweet calm and a solemn peace, and a measure of 
love to God and joy in the Holy Ghost ; and on my way 
home, the last verse of the hymn before mentioned came 
to my mind with more sweetness than before, and I believe 
I then felt the witness of the Spirit that I was a child of 
God. But I do not think I received so much grace at once 
as some of the children of God do ; for it pleased Him to 
let me be tried with doubts, fears, and scruples a quarter 
of a year ; and I gradually grew up in faith and love from 
Midsummer till Michaelmas. On Michaelmas Day, in the 
afternoon, I was reading that part of ' Pilgrim's Progress ' 
where Ignorance is introduced ; I compared my faith with 
his, and could not but see there was some difference ; but 
I felt a fear lest I had been walking in the light of sparks 
of my own kindling; while I was thus reasoning and 
halting between faith and unbelief, the Lord raised me up 

' How vast the love that Him inclined 
To bleed and die for thee ! ' 


and enabled me to gp on my way rejoicing with 'joy 
unspeakable and full of glory.' 

" I have met in Cobridge class ever since Mr. Jabez 
Bunting was over, and have received two Tickets. I am 
glad to inform you there have been six members added 
since Midsummer, and we have good ground to expect 
further increase. At present I go on comfortably; my 
trials are outbalanced by my enjoyments ; I feel my own 
weakness more than ever, but I feel also that my God 
holds me by the hand ; that when I wade through tempta- 
tion He keeps my head above water, He saves ' mine eyes 
from tears ' and my feet ' from falling.' "* 

From the time of his conversion, notwithstanding the 
barrier presented by his almost insurmountable shyness, 
and though some, unwisely, would have had him confine 
himself to the sphere of a local preacher and thus avoid 
the sacrifice of secular advantages within his reach, he felt 
the inward call of God to preach His Gospel; and he 
deliberately chose the toils and hardships of the Methodist 

At this period Methodism was vigorously aggressive; 
every recruit was promptly sent into the ranks, and 
made acquainted with active service. Gifts such as Mr. 
Keeling's were not likely to be overlooked, and at the 
Conference of 1811 he was received on trial, and sent to 

* We cannot forbear calling the attention of our readers to one important 
sentence of the above letter : "When I first begun to read Paine/' &c. It is 
sadly possible that many similar confessions ought to be made by the readers 
of modern sceptical literature. There are books now in circulation which 
carefully avoid the coarse irreverence of Paine and his school, but which are 
not less hostile to the spirit of Christian faith, and to the essential doctrines 
of Christianity. Young readers should beware. They are not called to read 
anti-Christian books, however clear or popular these may be ; they are not in 
the path of duty, nor in the way of safety, while so doing ; and they are not 
at all fully awake to the danger they thus incur. It is not well to travel even 
a short distance in company with the great adversary, lest he compel us to go 
much further than we ever contemplated. 

the Belper Circuit. Here, and in some subsequent 
appointments, he had a good share of the long journeys, 
humble fare, and "labours more abundant" which fell to 
the lot of a Methodist preacher in those days. In a letter 
written about this time he mentions, by way of excuse 
for not having written sooner, that he had " made nine 
sermons and walked forty-five miles between Sunday and 
Thursday/' But he gave it as his deliberate opinion in 
later years that there was then more time for thought and 
study than at present. He would say, " We used to preach 
more sermons, and to meet more classes ; but we were not 
loaded with harassing and incessant business details." As 
a young man, his delivery was so rapid, that he was often 
told he gave as much material in the time allotted for one 
sermon as would serve for two or three ; and the late 
Kev. Jonathan Edmondson, whose friendship and esteem 
he possessed, and whose advice and counsel he greatly 
valued, frequently warned him against injuring himself by 
undue effort. The calm tones and deliberate utterance of 
his mature years were the result of resolute self-discipline. 
Mr. Keeling was not in the habit of talking or writing 
much of himself; but there are touching records, in a few 
letters to an intimate friend, which reveal some of the 
innermost springs of his sensitive nature, and the trials 
peculiar to it ; his earnest yearnings and diligent strivings 
after his own exalted standard of all that a Christian and 
a minister of the New Testament should be; and his 
humble and devout thankfulness to God, to whom he 
rendered all the praise, for the fruits of his ministry. 

The first four years of his labours as a travelling preacher 
were spent in four successive Circuits. In each at first he 
felt the loneliness of a stranger's heart to a distressing 
degree; the more so from the shyness before alluded to, 
which concealed from a casual observer or ordinary 
acquaintance the depths of a truly warm, generous, and 


confiding nature : and he was at first painfully conscious 
of being more wondered at than appreciated, in his pulpit 
efforts, in each fresh sphere. But the blameless consistency 
of his walk among them, and his masterly expositions of 
Divine truth, invariably endeared him to his flock, brought 
seals to his ministry, and secured him a hearty and 
unanimous invitation to remain another year. On quitting 
Belper, his first Circuit, he writes to the forenamed friend, 
"I preached my farewell sermon in Cromford chapel on 
Thursday evening, from, 'Brethren, pray for us.' My 
congregation were nearly all in tears, and I among the 

rest : Mrs. S said she was afraid of being forced to 

weep aloud ; — I was for my own part very happy : my 
mind was dissolved in religious tenderness. I am still 
cheerful and contented, resigned to the will of God, and 
resolved to live to His glory. I could not say so 

much of myself if I did not know that it would be 
interesting to you." In writing from his fourth Circuit to 
another ^friend, after expressing disparaging views of him- 
self, he adds, "But here I perhaps ought to acknowledge 
that, both at Gainsborough and Burnley, several ascribe 
their conversion to my ministry." 

During his fifty-two years of service as a Wesleyan- 
Methodist preacher, his labours were greatly blessed of 
God, both in building up believers, and in awakening the 
unconcerned. His sermons have sometimes been rather 
unfairly described as " treats to the intellectual few." 
While his preaching certainly required attention, and well 
repaid that of the most cultivated, he conscientiously 
aimed to present his thoughts in language that the " way- 
farer " need not misunderstand, and uniformly avoided 
using uncommon words, if any more simple, or in more 
general use, would express the same meaning ; and he was 
glad to know that by many of the godly poor his preaching 


was highly prized. Calm, impressive, and reverent in 
manner, solid in thought, clear, finished, and forcible in 
style, his discourses told powerfully upon the consciences 
of men, and commended themselves to reflective minds of 
all classes as the manifestation of Divine truth. One 
pleasing instance of the success of his labours may be 
recorded here. A cabman in London, after taking Mr. 
Keeling some distance, declined to accept his fare ; and in 
explanation, asked his astonished passenger if he remem- 
bered preaching on a particular occasion from a certain 
text ; and added, that under the sermon his soul had been 
set at liberty. 

Many of Mr. Reeling's sermons, especially those on 
Scripture characters, will be long and well remembered. 
They were marked by delineations so singularly keen, and 
searchings of heart so close, that none who heard could fail 
to appreciate them and profit by them. He was able also 
as a son of consolation, ministering succour to the tempted, 
comfort to the afflicted, and encouragement to the fearful 
in heart. In doctrine he showed uncorruptness, gravity, 
sincerity, sound speech, that could not be condemned, and 
" he that was of the contrary part " often " had reason to 
be ashamed." 

Mr. Keeling often exercised his poetic powers, and, by 
request, wrote many hymns for Sunday-school occasions, 
and several for the opening of chapels. The following was 
composed for the opening of Brunswick Chapel, Maccles- 
field, in 1824, and published at the request of the late Dt 
Bunting in the Magazine for that year. 

"Will God indeed to earth descend, 

In temples made with hands to dwell ? 
Lo ! round, above, the heavens extend, 

Can science their dimensions tell ? 
Their viewless bounds we seek in vain ; 
Yet, can the heavens our God contain ? 


No ! the vast firmament, with all 

Its wan<iering stars, and seas of light, 
The deeps which echo the sad call 

Of spirits lost in endless night, 
Heaven, hell, and all their bounds include, 
Are points in His infinitude. 

Yet, through His co-eternal Son, 
Who wields all power on earth, on high, 

By fervent prayer His grace is won ; 
He hears the penitential sigh ; 

And saints assembling in His name, 

His presence in their midst may claim. 

Thus saith the great and lofty One, 

Who liveth in eternity, 
On high, apart, I set my throne ; 

Yet with the souls who turn to Me, 
The contrite, who themselves abase, 
I have a chosen dwelling-place." 

We add a few other specimens. 



Haply perceived, in his extremity, — 

Faint, lone, and speechless, sinking in the street — 

Then — unknown faces looking pity on him — 

Strange voices questioning and counselling, 

Strange hands upholding his collapsing frame, 

Laving his brow, with kind solicitude, 

And raising cordials to his lips in vain, 

Mild, upright Stanley raised his dying eyes, 

Looking devotionally up to heaven, 

As turning to a known, all-powerful friend, 

From those unknown, who pitying, wanted power ! 

Then smiling placidly, on her whose aid, had thus the thanks of a departing 

With saintly sweetness, tranquilly expired. 
Death beautifully solemn ! absent all 
Whom sinking nature loves to see around ; 
Those best beloved, whose sadly kind last looks 
Had soothed him, though he could not speak to them ; 
And those the brethren of his soul, whose voice, 
In supplication raised availeth much. 

Painful their absence in his mute distress ; 
Sudden the alarming summons : but the bright 


Light of his countenance was God, his help ; 

The pavement under him, like Jacob's pillow, 

The Bethel stone, was awful with God's presence ; 

The beauty of holiness, in death immortal, 

Was seen by strangers in his quiet smile, 

As the vast, silent firmament resounds, 

In reason's ear, its origin divine ; 

So, without voice, this holy pilgrim's end 

Proclaimed the all-conquering power of godliness, 

Goodness with majesty of heavenly calmness crowned. 


Companion of my calmest, happiest hours, 

Dear partner of my homefelt joys and cares, 
For thee, in silent thought, my spirit pours 

Its glad thanksgivings and incessant prayers. 

Tlcou art my world. What once to me were snares,— 
Wealth, emulation, fame, — are now disarm'd ; 

But Love's light yoke my heart contented bears ; 
By pleasing conjugal enchantment charm'd ; 
And only by the fear of future loss alarm'd. 

When travelling far, in sickness or in grief, 

Of strangers weary, lonely, and depr9ss'd, 
The thought of thee administers relief, 

The progress homeward soothes my heart to rest ; 

Arriving, I'm unutterably bless'd ; 
Thy tender welcome banishes all care ; 

Pain, sickness, sorrow, leave my lighteu'd breast ; 
Peace, confidence, and joy re-enter there ; 
All things appear transform'd, all good, serene and fair. 

While conquerors climb the summits of renown, 

O'er mounds of dead, through slaughter, flood and flame, 
And, from their strong eminences, frown 

On half the wasted world ; while others aim 

At wealth, or office, or a titled name ; 
Our choice be love, and meek, domestic peace, 

Obedient faith, and conscience void of blame ; 
Joys that may grow as health and strength decrease, 
And in full vigour last when selfish pleasures cease. 

Oft bows my soul before the Saviour's throne ; 

Its prayer — Me from idolatry defend, 
And keep, jealous God, my heart thy own ; 

Yet still thy dearest, dangerous boon, lend ; 

Spare her thou gav'st me till my sojourn end ; 


Instruct our babe thy saving truth to know ; 

Let thy pure influence on our hearts descend ; 
Our spirits purge from love of things below ; 
Our strength in weakness be, our bliss in worldly woe. 

While God upholds us in this dying world, 
The cares of love be still our sweet employ ; 

When Death's approach, with shadowing wing unfurl' d, 
Shall warn us to resign terrestrial joy, 
Despair shall not our parting hour annoy ; 

Hope, strong, exultant, shall the mourner cheer, 

Through Him who died that He might death destroy ; 

Our mingled dust th' archangel's call shall hear, 

And live, in love and joy, through heaven's eternal year. 

Bradwell, May 26th, 1817. I. K. 


Full twenty years ago, that strain I sung, 

In Derbyshire's sweet vales, below Mam -Tor, 
And oft elsewhere : but, yesterday, I hung 

Over her grave, beside the shelving shore, 

While ancient ocean's everlasting roar 
Mix'd with the priests' soft voice. The solemn sound 

Of many waters, — the dread words of power 
Which bless the dead in Christ, — the tombs around, — 
Rapt me to those abodes where bliss my love had found. 


November 15th, 1838, at Sunderland, Esther, the beloved wife of the 
Rev. Isaac Keeling, Wesleyan minister, died, to whom, for twenty-three 
years, she had been united in the Lord. She was truly a disciple of the Lord 
Jesus ; and, in a somewhat lingering disorder, experienced the full power of 
His grace to sustain and comfort. Her mind sometimes wandered ; but when 
free from delirium, she retained much self-possession, and soundness of judg- 
ment. From all doubt and distrust, she was mercifully preserved, and enabled, 
with unhesitating faith, to apply to herself the various assurances of the good- 
ness and faithfulness of God which were repeated to her. In this truly 
sanctified affliction, she experienced no love of life, no fear of death, nor any 
distracting solicitudes for her eleven children. Her last hours were spent in 
patient hope, waiting for the coming of her Lord. I. K. 


April 25th, 1839, at the King's Arms Inn, Glasgow, in the twenty-tbird 

year of his age, William Brown Keeling, M.D., eldest son of the Rev. Isaac 

Keeling. His sudden removal is an impressive instance of the nothingness of 

temporal hopes and successes. On the 24th he was recognised in the 


Despair did not our parting hour annoy ; 

Nor fail'd in pitying help and gracious cheer 
From Him who died that He might death destroy 

Mingled or not, our dust His voice shall hear ; 

Yea, sooner, shall our meeting souls appear 
Together at His feet. His spirit shall turn 

Our children's hearts : with lowly, loving foar. 
I and my house will serve Him while we mourn, 
Till all with her shall rest, with her to God returu. 

Still, in sad dreams, I watch beside her bed, 

Or cross, with stealthy step, her darken'd room, 
Or deem she feebly calls on me for aid, 

Or seek new remedies ; in 'wildering gloom, 

Half -recollect the death-scene and the tomb 
And wake to consciousness of mateless woe, — 

She calls, alas ! no more. Roused I resume 
The better thoughts that leave the flesh below, 
And join her spirit on high, where saints with seraphs glow. 

Shores of eternity, near which I wait, 

Whence she hath voyaged to return no more, — 
Depths of eternity, stupendous height 

Length, breadth, which disencumbered spirits explore, — 

Joys of eternity, — friends gone before, — 
I soon shall hail you. While my Esther died, 

I saw, by faith above the starry floor 
The King of saints ; and, ere I left her side 
Shared balmy bliss with her, my love beatified. 
Sunderland, Nov. 20th, 1838. I. K. 

University of Glasgow as Doctor of Medicine ; and, the same evening, urgent 
symptoms of disease induced him to send for medical aid. In the afternoon 
of the 25th, he reluctantly consented that his father, who was then expecting 
to hear of his return to Gateshead, should be informed of his illness ; and, 
about two hours afterwards, expired. His sorrowing relations are driven for 
consolation to the past. They have reason to believe that he was converted 
to God at Woodhouse Grove School, about nine years ago. He has since been 
a member of the Wesleyan Methodist Societies at Louth, Glasgow, and Gates- 
head. During his ardent pursuits of scientific attainments, there were seasons 
of obvious spiritual lukewarmness ; but soon after he had begun to practise 
in Gateshead, he stated to his father that he was already a member of a class, 
which he had "selected after brief residence ; and that it was his settled pur- 
pose to live and die a consistent Wesleyan Methodist. To those who knew 
him, it is unnecessary to say anything of his intelligence and amiableness. 
To all who read this notice of his early removal, the reflection must surely be 
obvious, that the most important of all attainments, io any age or condition, 
is that habitual preparation for death, which it is equally our duty and 
privilege to possess. !• K- 



In the last stanza but one of the foregoing poem in the February number of 

the Methodist Magazine, 1839. 
Far be from me the fault, to have complained 

Of matchless woe. Poetic license might 
Exaggerate thus ; or passion, unrestrained 
By Jesu's gentleness ; but 'tis not right 
For one who feels the soft, sustaining might 
Of kindness, human and divine, to call 

His sorrows matchless : mateless did I write. 
Let Zion, as fierce Babylon's weeping thrall, 
Demand, " What grief like mine ! " with Him who grieved for all. 
Sunderland, February 1th, 1839. I. K. 


(The last lines Mr. Keeling wrote.) 

" The thing which hath been, is that which shall be. . Is there any- 

thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new ? It hath been already of old 
time, which was before us." — Eccles. i. 9, 10. 

When first the pair in Paradise, reclined 

At eve, survey 'd the kindling firmament, 
'Twas new ; — but, as the constellations shined 

On them, so still those countless eyes are bent 

On us, with awful gaze, and beams unspent. 
Those watchers witness'd when, across the plain, 

Lot and his family from Sodom went, — 
They saw the Red Sea parted, and the slain, 
When God let loose the waves on Pharaoh and his train. 

The spirit of pilgrimage, in lands remote, 

Joys in believing it some trace hath found 
Of worthies old. The rock that Moses smote, 

The well of Bethlehem, or the sacred grouud 

Of Olivet, — what vision ed forms surround 
Of might and majesty ! Such scenes have ties 

That link with th' ancient past thoughts onward bound, 
Primeval splendours still, in evening skies, 
We share with Eden's pair, and see the same moon rise. 

On earth, sin, shame, wrath, sorrow, toil, and death, 
When man rebell'd, were new ; and new the grace 

Promised, unsought, before the flaming breath 
Of cherubim had driven him from the place 
His guilt defiled. Throughout all time his race 

Inherit sin and death, with grace Divine, 
So free, who will the mercy may embrace. 

Thus that which "hath been" "shall be," line on line, 
Till Paradise, renew'd, with Jesu's glories shine. 
Southport, Dec, 1863, 


Mr. Reeling's habit of diligent and discriminating read- 
ing became a second nature, so that at seventy years ol 
age and upwards an interesting book has been known to 
keep him lost in enjoyment till long past midnight : he 
thus accumulated great and varied stores of information, 
which were rendered constantly available by a vigorous 
memory and a sound judgment. Had his education been 
classical, he would probably have attained to eminent 
scholarship ; he had a thorough acquaintance with the 
great masters of English literature, and found it possible 
to form a pure style and to cultivate a severe taste, princi- 
pally by their aid. His was a singular instance of classical 
taste, apart from classical learning. Mr. Keeling's mind 
was analytical; he delighted to investigate, but above all 
to distinguish and discriminate, and he did so with rare 
skill. His keen perception enabled him to penetrate a 
subject quickly, but his quick penetration and sagacious 
insight were not allowed to supply the place of mature 
consideration. His genuine courtesy, which was especially 
apparent in conversation, placed his mature wisdom and 
extensive knowledge freely at the disposal of others ; and 
he seldom declined to impart what it was often a rich treat 
to receive. His humility, added to his courtesy, rendered 
him also a patient listener, though few to whom he listened 
were his equals. With one conversational vice, however, 
he had no patience ; he could not endure to hear men state 
and defend opinions which they did not really hold; he 
said it was unprincipled, and demoralizing, and never failed 
to protest against it ; even the plea of being in jest would 
not satisfy him. Truth must not be trifled with in his 
presence, however slightly. He believed that he could 
point to some he had known who had greatly injured their 
own moral character by indulging the habit he so strongly 
condemned. His ability as a critic was acknowledged, and 
not a few authors submitted their manuscripts to his 



revision. He was a iried and trusted counsellor, an elder 
for whose words men waited ; and in the management of 
public business and Circuit affairs combined great firmness 
with gentleness, prudence, and tact : often placed by official 
duties in delicate and difficult positions, he filled them with 
credit to himself and benefit to the Church : in cases of 
discipline he always combined generous kindness with the 
maintenance of order and integrity. 

By his brethren in the ministry he was greatly esteemed, 
and his advice and direction both on private and Connex- 
ional matters were eagerly and constantly sought. His 
unobtrusive manners and retiring disposition often pre- 
vented his many excellences from being fully appreciated ; 
he was best beloved where most throughly known. His 
kindness of heart was overflowing; and to the poor and 
needy he often bestowed assistance far beyond his means. 
His private life and conversation furnished abundant evi- 
dence of the charity which "thinketh no evil," and "hopeth 
all things." Among his personal characteristics sincerity 
was prominent ; he was eminently free from all cant, all 
pretence, all meanness, all double-dealing, and these vices 
he utterly detested; even a reference to such things in 
conversation displeased him ; but it was in the pulpit that his 
hatred of them was fully seen ; usually calm, perhaps too 
calm, in his public manner, he was roused at once ; his 
voice rose, and in deep impassioned tones he de- 
nounced fraud and falsehood in all their various forms 
with righteous severity and indignation. During the fifty- 
eight years in which he walked before the Church and the 
world as a Methodist preacher, his character was unblem- 
ished ; — he never degraded a duty, nor bretrayed a trust ; 
—above reproach and above suspicion, he rejoiced in the 
esteem of good men, and prized it as a great treasure. 

After occupying a place twenty years on the Conference 
Platform as " Letter Writer" and Journal Secretary," in 


1855 Mr. Keeling was elected President of the Conference, 
held that year in Leeds. On his retiring from the office 
the following year, the late Dr. Bunting moved the vote of 
thanks to him, and in doing so said his conduct as Presi- 
dent " had never been excelled." Three years later, at the 
Hull Conference, he was called upon to draw up the 
"character" of Dr. Bunting, which he did, as it now 
appears in the Minutes of 1858; and it was his pen that 
wrote the beautiful inscription on Dr. Bunting's monument 
in Liverpool-Eoad Chapel, Islington. 

In 1863, severe affliction compelled Mr. Keeling to 
retire from the work he had loved so well, and fulfilled so 
faithfully The Conference sent him an official letter on 
his retirement. We here give the letter with his charac- 
teristic reply. 

Wesleyan Conference, Sheffield. 

August 6, 1863. 
To the Eev. Isaac Keeling. 
Dear Brother, 

It is with sincere and affectionate regret that the 
Conference has received intelligence of the failure of your 
health, and your proposed retirement from the more public 
station, which, by the grace of God, you have maintained 
for so many years, with singular wisdom and fidelity. The 
Conference gratefully recalls to mind your sound and 
mature instructions from the pulpit, — your Christian 
courtesy and ability in the offices of Superintendent and 
Chairman, — your exemplary industry and exactness as 
Assistant Secretary to the Conference, — your conduct when 
raised, as our President, to the highest post among us, — 
and the eminent services which you have rendered by your 
pen, in the preparation of important Conference documents 
and other papers. 

Be assured that you cany into your comparative seclu- 
sion the full and honourable confidence of your brethren, 


with their unaffected esteem and veneration. Our prayer 
is that God may spare your valuable life for years to come, 
—That He may comfort and strengthen you with the 
more plentiful supplies of the Holy Spirit,— that he 
may cause your remaining days to pass in undisturbed 
tranquility,— and that He may at length receive you, 
satisfied with life and good, to the joys of His own pres- 
ence. We would add that you will ever be welcomed to 
your customary place in our assembly, as far as your health 
will allow you to attend, and that we shall, on all occasions, 
prize the counsels which you may yet have it in your 
power to give. 

Believe us to be, very dear Brother, 

On behalf of the Conference, 

Yours faithfully in Christ, 

Geokge Osborn, President 
John Farrar, Secretary. 

Burnley, 11 Aug., 1863. 
To Dr. Osborn. 

My dear Mr. President, 

Three days ago, the very kind and comforting 
letter, signed by yourself and Mr. Secretary, on behalf of 
the Conference, filled me with deep and grateful emotion. 
I have been desirous to acknowledge your favour in a 
suitable manner, but am unable adequately and worthily to 
express what I think and feel. 

Your affectionate assurances of remembrance in the 
prayers of so many devoted servants of Christ, and of a 
fraternal welcome in your annual assembly, if hereafter I 
should be enabled to attend, where for me to be present, is 
to have the pleasure of more valued friends than I can 
meet in any other earthly scene, are especially encouraging 
and consoling. 


Trusting that divine direction and blessing may be richly 
imparted to you in all the deliberations and proceedings of 
the Conference, and the manifold cares and labours of the 

I remain, my dear Mr. President, 

Your most affectionate Brother in Christ, 

Isaac Keeling. 

In the remaining six years of seclusion,pain and weariness, 
ever increasing feebleness, and sometimes acute suffering, 
tested the principles he had preached and cultivated. He 
steadfastly held by them to the end; the graces of the 
Holy Spirit shone forth brightly as his outer man decayed- 
patience, meekness, thankfulness, faith and love unfeigned, 
were abundantly manifested in his gradual decline, in his 
sick room, and on his dying bed. He was never able 
to preach again after the illness occasioned by cold caught on 
his seventy-fourth birthday, but he continued to care for the 
Church and the world with unabated interest; and his 
most earnest wish was to prepare a volume of thoroughly 
revised sermons for the press, as a means of usefulness 
that might continue when he should have passed away. 
To this he had been repeatedly urged by his brother 
ministers, and by influential members of his congregations 
in the different towns in which he had travelled ; and he 
looked forward to the comparative rest of his "Super- 
numerary" years as a favourable opportunity for the 
accomplishment of this work, for which the multifarious 
duties of Superintendent of important Circuits, Chairman 
of Districts, and the like, left him little leisure in active 
life. His solicitude on this subject cost him many days of 
anxious thought, and many sleepless nights. It was touch- 
ing to witness the resolute attempts he made from time 
to time to fulfil this long cherished wish, but his strength 


was never equal to the whole undertaking ; he was inter- 
rupted by a state of health that often compelled him to 
desist, always reluctantly, and always, till towards the 
last, with the hope of resuming his pen. He gave however 
his last finish to a few sermons, and the rest were subjected 
to repeated revisions. 

Mr. Keeling's heavenly-mindedness, his tender sympathy, 
his wise counsels, his richly-stored memory ; his instinctive 
perception and appreciation of the true and the beautiful 
in nature, character, literature, or art, which would often 
bring the tear to his eye, rendered him a most delightful 
and profitable companion to those who were privileged with 
his daily presence. His habitual reluctance to give trouble, 
his thankfulness for the smallest service or assistance, his 
unaffected humility and childlike simplicity endeared him 
to all within his influence. The preciousness of the soul, 
and the importance of seeking and obtaining salvation, 
were frequent topics of his conversation, and the subjects 
of many heart-stirring and affectionate letters to friends 
and relatives, who he feared were either unconcerned or 
undecided on these vital points. Thus he strove to work 
for God to the last, and to do good while he could. His 
comments on the Scriptures, and his prayers and thanks- 
givings at the family altar, were often apostolic in fulness 
of wisdom and grace. He continued to get down stairs, 
though later in the day, and with increasing difficulty, till 
February 12th, 1869, the completion of his eightieth year; 
when, after acknowledging the sparing mercy and mani- 
fold goodness of God, he retired to rest in more than 
usually cheerful spirits; but he was never again able 
to take his place at the family fireside, or to stand upon 
his feet. During the following six months of his life he 
verified the words of the Psalmist : " The years of man 
are threescore years and ten ; and if by reason of strength 


they be fourscore years ; yet is their strength labour and 

"How do Thy mercies close me round! 
For ever be Thy name adored : 
I blush in all things to abound, 
The servant is above his Lord." 

was frequently his reply to expressions of condolence on 
his state of weakness. " The Lord is good, a stronghold in 
the day of trouble, and He knoweth " (or, owneth) " them 
that trust in Him," seemed to be applied with peculiar 
force to his mind, and ever to yield him support and con- 
solation. As long as his failing strength permitted, he 
loved to have the family gathered in his room of an even- 
ing, and after the reading of a portion of the Word of God 
by his daughter or son-in-law, there ascended from his bed 
of languishing, as from a sacred altar, an acceptable sacri- 
fice of praise and thanks, of faith and love, while in 
tremulous accents, but with unshaken confidence, in dying 
tones, but with living faith, he commended them, himself 
and absent loved ones, to God, through Christ, often plead- 
ing especially for the young, his grandchildren. On the 
last occasion of the kind, he concluded thus, his voice 
sinking to a whisper from exhaustion : " Living or dying 
we are Thine ; we would be wholly and only Thine ; and 
do Thy will as angels do in heaven. Thou, God, art our 
merciful Father, our Almighty Saviour, our unfailing Com- 
forter." As his son-in-law, with whom he resided, had to 
remove from Earby to Eipon, in April, great fear and per- 
plexity were felt as to how Mr. Keeling would bear the 
journey : though it was hoped that if it could be safely 
accomplished, the change would prove beneficial, and revive 
his feeble powers of life for a time at least. To himself 
in his state of conscious weakness, the prospect was formi- 
dable and distressing : but as the 10th of April, the time 
fixed upon for the removal, drew near, he seemed to have 


committed all anxiety respecting it to his " sure defence f 
and, in reference to if, repeatedly and calmly said, "The 
Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble." The 
9th of April was a day of storm and tempest, hail, rain 
and snow, and great misgivings were felt for the helpless 
invalid who had to travel on the morrow ; but he himself 
still found assurance in the promise, " He owneth them 
that trust in Him." The morning dawn was mild and still, 
but misty. All concerned were thankful for this improve- 
ment on the weather of the previous day : but before the 
hour of departure arrived the sun shone forth powerfully 
and brilliantly, and ushered in the first warm and balmy 
day of the season. The best appliances that love and 
forethought and money could supply having been secured, 
the dreaded removal was accomplished with far more ease 
and comfort than any had dared to hope ; and Mr. Reeling's 
first expression on being safely laid on his bed at Eipon 
was, "The Lord is good" while his countenance beamed 
with thankfulness. Some days of great prostration and 
languor followed the strain on his physical strength and 
nervous system ; but when time and rest had subdued 
these symptoms, he began to enjoy the sweet air of Eipon 
from his open window, and to admire the glimpses of nature 
within view. But this improvement soon gave way to 
indications of further decline, and from continued drowsi- 
ness, he was often unable to converse for days together ; 
or he would talk incoherently in the delirium of the fever 
induced by excessive weakness. At other times he was 
too prostrate to be able to talk or to listen. But his mind 
appeared to be kept in perfect peace. What expressions 
he did utter were those of thankfulness and trust. Nothing 
that could offend, nothing contrary to the things that are 
honest, just, pare, lovely, and of good report, passed through 
his lips. When neither overcome by sleep, nor excited by 
fever, his sufferings from weakness and exhaustion were 


often severe. He would then frequently say, " I must be 
patient ;" and truly his patience and fortitude were exem- 
plary. On one occasion he said, "0 how often I have 

' A patient, a victorious mind, 
That life and all things casts behind, 

Springs forth obedient to Thy call, 
A heart that no desire can move, 
But still to adore, believe, and love, 

Give me, my Lord, my Life, my All ! " 

On his daughter saying, "Has not God answered your 
prayer, father ?" he said, "Yes, I think He has ;" and then, 
" Oh yes ! I feci He does." " Our incomparable hymns/' as 
he used to call them, were channels of rich consolation to 
him, and the medium by which he expressed much of his 
experience. " Jesu, source of calm repose," " Jesus, my 
truth, my way," "Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness," 
" ISTow I have found the ground wherein," and " Jesu, Lover 
of my soul," were among the favourites often asked for 
when he was too weak to go through them himself. His 
room was always as a sacred retreat ; nothing of the world 
seemed to find entrance there ; and to those who delighted 
to tend him it was often a very Bethel of love and peace. 

Beguiled to some extent by his calm endurance, the end 
came to those about him almost unawares. On Thursday, 
the 4th of August, a week before he died, he was wheeled 
on his couch, for a little change, into another bedroom 
overlooking the Crescent grounds, and being so placed that 
he could look out, he gently said, several times, as if 
thinking aloud, " Beautiful, very beautiful ; nature and art 
combined." Shortly after, his kind and attentive pastor, 
the Ptev. A. H. M'Tier, called to see him. He responded 
frequently to Mr. M'Tier's prayer with unusual warmth 
and animation. After his departure he seemed disposed 
for quiet, and assuring his daughters that he was comfort- 
able and wanted nothing, he was left alone for a short time. 


On one of them re-entering the room, she found him recit- 
ing that beautiful hymn, — 

" O God of good the unfathomed sea, 
Who would not give his heart to Thee ? " etc., 

with the utmost reverence and devoutness of manner. His 
little remaining strength now declined rapidly. On at- 
tempting to speak, his voice repeatedly failed him. " The 
daughters of music" were already "brought low;" "the 
silver cord was loosed," and the " golden bowl " was about 
to be " broken." His breathing became more and more 
laborious in the course of Monday and Tuesday, his coun- 
tenance meanwhile in its heavenly serenity bespeaking the 
peace that ruled within. 

He slept quietly for several hours on Tuesday night, but 
towards daylight on Wednesday morning he often seemed 
in danger of choking, and it was apparent to all and to 
himself that his end was very near. Exhausted nature 
sank to sleep at frequent intervals during the day, but 
when^ awake his mind was evidently clear and collected, 
and intensely solemnized by his consciousness of the near- 
ness of the eternal world. Yet there was no dismay ; and 
though unable to articulate, he made himself perfectly 
intelligible to those who watched his every look and ex- 
pression. He listened with marked earnestness and comfort 
to the precious promises that were quoted to him; and 
gave unmistakable assurances that Jesus was present as 
his Saviour. As the night drew on, the labour of his 
breathing increased : he frequently closed his eyes and 
seemed unconscious, but opened them at the sound of a 
text of Scripture or one of his favourite hymns, and 
beamed inexpressible love and tenderness on those who 
each held a hand. At length, when to all appearance he 
had well nigh ceased to breathe, his eyes gradually turned 
upward and dilated, and glowed with a gaze of rapturous 
wonder, and reverence, and love, as if a glimpse were given 


him of the unspeakable joy and glory that awaited him. 
Then directing a look upon his daughter intensely eloquent 
of satisfaction, assurance, and affection, his happy spirit 
returned to God who gave it. " Who can tell," says one, 
in writing to the bereaved afterwards, " what it was that 
met his dying, upward gaze 1 Something like that which 
Stephen saw, when he cried, ' Behold, I see heaven opened.' " 
Says another, in comforting the mourners, " Few men have 
thought so much or so calmly about the future state as 
your father, and few will have formed ideas of the heavenly 
existence at once so sublime and so subdued. Yet how far 
beyond all his conceptions is now the great reality ! One 
could wish to know what such a mind as his has seen 
and felt already there ! " The final resting-place of this 
departed saint in a vault under Trinity church, in the city 
of Bipon, is most appropriately inscribed with the words, 
so eminently fulfilled to him, " Mark the perfect man, and 
behold the upright ; for the end of that man is peace." 

The Eev. "Win. Willan, one of his long and intimate 
friends, preached an impressive and appropriate funeral 
sermon for Mr. Keeling at Papon, in the evening of Septem- 
ber 26th, 1869, and afterwards read the following able and 
characteristic letter which he had received from the Eev. 
Dr. Dixon. 

" My dear Friend, — I hasten to communicate my recol- 
lections of the late Eev. Isaac Keeling. 

" Just before I left home to engage in my first Circuit, 
in 1812, Mrs. Beaumont, the mother of Dr, Beaumont, 
while on a visit to some of my friends, spoke very earnestly 
of a young preacher who had been stationed with them 
the previous year, as ' a remarkable young man ;' contrast- 
ing him with another, and not to the advantage of the 
latter. This casual conversation impressed me with a very 
favourable idea of our departed friend : I kept my atten- 
tion fixed upon him, and my ear open to receive any inti- 


mation of his progress,; but I did not meet with him till 
1827, at the celebrated Leeds Special District-Meeting in 
that town, on the organ question : he was secretary, and 
the resolutions and documents were written by him. At 
this meeting our acquaintance commenced, which in the 
course of years ripened into a sincere friendship. 

'• I do not know the circumstances attending his con- 
version, but have no doubt of its reality or genuineness as 
a work of God. This may be inferred from the excellence 
of his religious character, sustained through a long series 
of years, and under various, and some of them painful, 
circumstances. When we see all the graces of Christian 
life developed in its progress, we may be assured that those 
graces do not spring from human nature, but are the certain 
results of Divine grace conferring its privileges and pro- 
ducing its regenerating effects. ' Do men gather grapes of 
thorns, or figs of thistles ? ' 

" No doubt Mr. Keeling was a believer in the inspired 
writings, and all the verities of Christian truth ; but hi s 
faith was not manifested in enthusiastic bursts of fervid 
feeling and ecstatic joy. It seemed to form itself into 
profound, and perhaps we may say, sublime reason ; hence 
his religious life was not an up and down course of joy and 
sorrow, but an uniform and steady perseverence in all the 
ways of God 

" Outside observers would very greatly mistake in think- 
ing, possibly, that he was of a cold and phlegmatic tem- 
perament ; he was in truth a man of very warm affections ; 
one single shake of his hand, or the slightest intercourse 
with him, would remove such a delusion : and the con- 
stancy of his friendship, as I have proved for many years, 
was as remarkable as its ardour. 

" His morality was perfect ; truth, justice, purity, sin- 
cerity, and good- will were most conspicuous in his character. 
Had Seneca been converted, and his ' Morals ' transfused 


by the spirit of Christianity, he would not have been a bad 
representative of Mr. Keeling, who it seems very likely had 
made himself familiar with the writings of that Stoic 
philosopher, as well as with the lives of Plutarch ; but the 
remarkable feature in his moral texture was seen in his 
fondness for the Proverbs of Solomon and Ecclesiastes, 
which he never forsook ; but dug continually in those mines 
of sacred truth to the end of his days. 

" Mr. Keeling had a lively perception of the beautiful, 
especially in composition, and was himself a poet of no 
mean order. He was also a critic and a great master of 
language and style. A wrong word, or faulty structure of 
a sentence, he would detect in a moment ; and his efforts 
to correct the language of men in common conversation 
were almost amusing. But the leading faculty of Mr. 
Keeling's mind was analytical. In his examina- 

tion of an author or a book this was most conspicuous. 
"With himself every word contained an idea, and every 
sentence a spiritual or moral axiom. The quality he looked 
for in the authors he read. He would have consigned to 
the limbo of eternal silence a vast amount of what is 
called the ' literature of the day.' 

" As a preacher, he was not, as the term goes, ' popular/ 
not being the master of an impassioned eloquence. While 
those who went to hear for the edification of their souls 
would receive great good, those who went to the house of 
God merely to have their taste and fancy gratified, would 
be dull enough under one of his sermons. To a working 
man, whom I know, I said, ' Do you remember Mr. Keeling 
being in this Circuit ? ' His reply was, ' yes ; ' and then 
mentioning some qualities which he thought Mr. Keeling 
did not possess, he remarked, ' but he gave good instruction. 7 
These two words are an exact description of his preaching. 
A discourse was with him thinking aloud ; and was neither 
more nor less than just talking wisdom for an hour. The 


sermon was the exact. expression of the mind and heart of 
the man. 

" He never delivered a written sermon, nor one from 
memory. I recollect that at Dudley, when the Birmingham 
District-Meeting was held there, on his preaching one of 
his excellent discourses, the brethren requested him to 
publish it, supposing he had the manuscript in his pocket. 
He drew out a little scrap, saying that was all he had of it • 
nor was the publication ever forthcoming. 

" On the whole, Mr. Keeling may be pronounced a per- 
fectly original preacher ; no man was his model any more 
than he could become the model of another. His preach- 
ing was like his mind — unlike that of any one else. Both 
as a man and as a minister, he was a Solon in the universal 
hubbub of platform and pulpit oratory." 

The lines that follow are from the pen of the Rev. W- B. 
Pope, and may fitly close this memorial of one of the excel- 
lent of the earth. 

" Ik gives me pure satisfaction to recall the particulars of 
my occasional intercourse with Mr. Keeling in Southport. 
It had not been my privilege to know him before ; but from 
the first day of our acquaintance his character made a deep 
impression on my mind. By degrees he became a study 
which interested me more and more to the last. I had 
never met with a man so far gone in years retaining so 
lively an interest in things around him : keeping up corres- 
pondence, copying his own letters, attending to the common 
concerns of a householder, and mindful of every obligation 
of life. His dignity, tranquillity, and purity of spirit, I 
admired and reverenced, in common with all who knew 
him. But I had an opportunity of observing what only 
few saw : the singular clearness of his perceptions, vigour 
of his intellect, and alertness of his theological faculty. 
He began, partly, I hope, at my instigation, to re-write 
some of his chaste, symmetrical, and well-composed ser- 


mons ; and, had he not been a slow worker, and reduced 
to very short hours, would have prepared a great number 
for the press. If after I lost sight of him the daily line 
was added, and enough was finished for separate publica- 
tion, the volume would be a most excellent and profitable 

" Mr. Keeling had at command, and always at a friend's 
service, an inexhaustible treasury of remembrances, espe- 
cially Methodistical, extending over more than half a 
century. He was a slow but steady talker, and had a rare 
faculty of imprinting upon the mind of his listener, in a 
manner not soon to be forgotten, the scenes of the distant 
past. His biographical reminiscences, and incidents of 
Methodist history, and anecdotes of his contemporaries, 
were deeply interesting ; and communicated with such art- 
lessness, generosity of sentiment, and perfect freedom from 
self-consciousness or asperity, as made it a delight to con- 
verse with. him. It was hardly possible to hear him long 
without thinking of the Apostle's text : In malice he ye 
children, in understanding he ye men. Naturally he was 
elevated and noble-minded ; and grace had made him per- 
fectly charitable and pure. 

" I remember also being much impressed by his blessed 
preparation for death, and confidence in the anticipation of 
the future. At times it appeared to me that I should have 
the opportunity of witnessing his departure ; and I used 
to muse on what would probably be the characteristics of 
his end. From the accounts I have received it was just 
such a noble and gracious close of a long Christian career 
as I supposed it would be. Circumstances removed father 
Keeling from Southport ; and I can recall my reflections 
after taking leave of him in the train. I felt that I had 
lost one whom I never visited without profit, and who 
would be always hallowed in my memory as one of the 
noblest examples of sanctified old age 1 had ever known." 


10, Harpur Street, 

28th Sept., 1841. 
Eev. Wm. Atherton. 
My dear Sir, 

In transmitting to you Mr. E 's Treatise, I take 

the opportunity of also communicating the observations 
which have been suggested to me by the perusal of this 
work, or by the circumstances under which I have ex- 
amined it. 

To certain false ornaments and affected phrases in the 
style of this Treatise, I have a strong aversion, which I 
have freely expressed in pencil notes on the margin of the 
MS. The objectionable passages do not, however, form any 
large part of the work, though they present provoking im- 
pediments to that continuous attention which the subject 
and the sentiments justly claim. For many years I have 
observed with much concern, that many juvenile writers 
and speakers, (not including any member of the Book 
Committee) have recourse, for the elevation of their style, 
and the display of their literary pretensions, to an eager 
and indiscriminate adoption of all the most crude and new- 
fangled combinations of language that have been sanctioned 
by the caprice of recent writers or orators. They seem to 
think the newest fashions must be the most elegant in 
phrases as in dress. The effect is to give an ostentatious 
air to the compositions in which such strange feathers are 
exhibited, and to call off attention most unpleasantly from 
the sense to the expression. 

The peculiarity which in this Treatise, has most fre- 
quently offended my sense of congruity, is the use of the 


possessive Pronoun, Its, in a manner which makes it stand 
for the thing possessed or done, instead of the possessor or 
doer. Its perusal, Its bestowment, Its experience, Its attain- 
ment, etc., are expressions of a class which the writer 
appears to use by preference whenever he has opportunity 
to do so. I think them remarkably illogical and nonsen- 
sical phrases, but persons whose judgment I respect, appear 
to regard them with more favor. The increasing common- 
ness of them might give new occasion for an essay on the 
question — why nonsense, especially in the form of fine 
writing, so often escapes detection with both authors and 
their readers. 

From a highly respectable quarter, I have been reminded 
that a recent author of reputation, ends the title of a book 
with some such phrases as — "designed to facilitate its 
performance," meaning the performance of some duty. 
There are other late examples, especially among ourselves ; 
though I do not recollect any to which I can now refer. 
As this manner of using or abusing, the possessive pronoun 
appears to me to be what no examples can authorise, in 
opposition to such laws of language as are derived from 
the permanent relation of ideas, I shall take the liberty to 
occupy a little space in endeavouring to make the impro- 
priety of it manifest. 

The word in question, being one of a class, including 
my, thy, his, her, its, your, their, — must keep the bounds of 
its associates, and be employed like them. Hence, as His 
performance, is something which he performs, Its perform- 
ance, must be something which It performs, not in which 
it is performed. If Her attainment is something which 
she has attained, Its attainment must be something which 
It has attained. But the intended meaning in these 
phrases as used in this Treatise, is not what It performs or 
attains; but It stands for the very thing performed or 
attained. But what pretension can this little word have to 



personate by turn* the possessor and the property, the agent 
and the subject ? 

In the preface of this book, one sentence begins with, 
Its perusal. Now His or Her perusal would mean His or 
Her act of perusing ; and why must Its have a latitude to 
mean any thing else, in conjunction with perusal, but its 
act of perusing, not its state of being perused ? His, Her, 
and Its, are closely parallel branches from one stem, differ- 
ing in gender alone. When we say, His perusal, the 
expression does not signify the perusal of Him, as if He 
was the object perused, the man instead of the book. His, 
stands for the reader, and the book is the object that 
passively receives the act of reading. And if we say, Its 
perusal, the grammatical arrangement and relation of the 
words are exactly the same as when we say His perusal, 
though the intended meaning is quite otherwise. Its 
perusal is not equivalent to the perusal of it, any more than 
His perusal to the perusal of Him. Its still stands gram- 
matically, for the reader, as something which peruses ; and 
yet if you ask, What is perusal ? the same It must do duty 
again. The book is thus made to read itself. 

It is already admitted that modern examples may be 
pleaded for this most incongruous use of the neuter pos- 
sessive pronoun; but no number nor weight of recent 
authorities will prevent me from seeing in such phraseology 
a ridiculous jumble, a misty confusion of the established 
relations of words and ideas. If such forms of speech 
were idiomatic they would be frequently exemplified, which 
certainly they are not among those who write and speak 
plain English, and among the standard authors from the 
Eeformation downwards. If its perusal, its attainments, 
its performance, had been put before our Translators of the 

Scriptures, or the Compilers of the Liturgy, or before 

Dryden, Pope, Addison, or Swift,— or before Goldsmith, 
Johnson, Junius, or Burke, — or before any of the judicious 


and classical Wesleys, — such phrases would have suggested 
to their minds ideas about a learned pig, or a dancing bear, 
or some student, agent, or performers of doubtful gender ; 
leading them to ask, What sort of a peruser or performer 
can It be or signify ? I do not believe that an example of 
such phrases can be found in any of the fine writers before 
1800 ; nor that any of them would ever have dreamed of 
Its undergoing such a Protean transformation as would 
enable it to serve with equal promptitude and assurance for 
either subject or object, the performer or the performance, 
the possessor or the property. 

I well understand the motive and excuse for these 
ambiguous transmutations, which, however, is not very 
respectable. A clause or a sentence ending with the short 
abrupt monosyllable, It, is considered not euphonical. But 
it does not follow that there is only one way of avoiding 
such a termination ; and were there only one, an author 
whose subject is the great salvation, should be superior to 
the effeminate taste that would make the unworthy sacri- 
fice of sense to sound. 

Of Mr. E — 's Treatise in general, I have a high opinion. 
His great subject is the Gospel of our salvation ; which, in 
his pages, is treated evangelically, experimentally, and 
practically ; and so comprehensively as to render the work 
a compact and interesting body of divinity in a hortatory 
form. In the earlier parts there appears a degree of strain- 
ing for effect, and a use of overwrought phraseology ; which 
sometimes results in broken metaphor, and rather increases 
than relieves the doctrinal dryness of the introductory 
portion. Sometimes, also, he seems inclined to push an 
argument too far. But he becomes more fluent and natural 
as his work advances. His readers will find him always 
able and often eloquent. He displays his subject in a 
great variety of aspects and relations. He writes with a 
serious earnestness, with a fulness and spirituality of 


thought indicative' of deep religious feeling and solemn 
meditation. In addressing the understanding, he also 
gratifies the imagination, and moves and searches the con- 
science. His work is modestly addressed chiefly to the 
young; but an aged disciple might profitably read it, for 
spiritual refreshment and instruction in righteousness. 

Often while reading the MS., I have wished there had 
been an outline prefixed as a table of contents; and am 
accordingly of opinion that such an addition would be 
convenient and acceptable to readers generally. Having 
given these views of the work, it may be anticipated that 
I recommend the publication of it, with a hope that the 
Author, either personally or by commission, will remove 
its verbal blemishes. 

Southport, 1st March, 1865. 
My dear Mary Anne. 

You have repeatedly asked me to write to you, 
ancl I have as frequently wished to do so ; but there has 
always hitherto been some hinderance, in addition to that 
habitual reluctance to write letters, which I remember to 
have felt more than sixty years ago, though I have some- 
how been made to write so many. The wear and tear of 
seventy-six years has not lessened the old difficulty, which 
is like my long standing aversion to taking a walk for the 
sake of walking, is always ready and does not wait for any 
outward occasion or impulse. I suppose you will not soon 
forget the agony of effort to me, which our removal from 
the cottage involved. Though there have been since some 
slight remissions of the strain, much of my time has been 
passed in a state of uneasy tension, through the continuous 
striving to become settled in our new halting place. Pain 
and weakness are daily, or I may perhaps say hourly 
reminding me that " here we have no continuing city." And 
I feel that "here*' there is no secure halting place for 


spiritual vigilance, while I " seek one to come." Yet we 
have much to be thankful for in the assemblage of com- 
forts in this small house. The kindness of Burnley friends 
has not ceased : and L.'s contriving and tasteful industry- 
have rendered our rooms, not merely comfortable but ele- 
gant. I have keenly felt the withering severity of this 
winter ; and our most careful appliances have not availed 
to keep out the cold. This winter, like all its predecessors 
will pass away ; and in a few weeks we may expect that 
arrangements for guarding against heat will be required ; 
but my experience of the formidable influence of the severe 
atmospheric changes, which accompany winter, and which 
harrass and endanger my enfeebled frame, — warns me im- 
pressively that winter will come again. 

"O ! what a mighty change 

Shall Jesu's sufF rers know, 
While o'er the happy plains they range 

Incapable of woe ! 

In that eternal day 

No clouds nor tempests rise : 
There gushing tears are wiped away 

For ever from their eyes." 

! to be ready for that bright and secure tranquillity. But 
I have to say with Paul and John Wesley — " Not as though 
I had already attained, either were already perfect/' I 
have continual need to watch, and pray, and strive ; to 
walk humbly with God ; and to make sure that I abide in 
Him, in Christ, as one of His living branches. Without 
Him, I can do nothing. My habitual experience is ex- 
pressed in the Hymn, beginning on Page 409, Jesu, my 
truth, my way, &c, to the end, — and in the 130th Psalm, 
through all the verses. I hold these views seriously and 
earnestly - 

As I draw nearer to the everlasting state, my love for 
my children increases, with regrets that I have not done 
more and better for them both temporally and spiritually, 


and it is to me a weighty consideration that I have besides 
my nine children, so many grandchildren, and that they 
are ransomed sinners, whose endless lot must depend on 
working out their own salvation with fear and trembling. 
"By working out, I understand, carrying out a work begun, 
to the stage of completion; and I think you have heard 
me state — that the only time I ever saw the late Sir Eobert 
Peel, which was at Exeter Hall in 1840, his manner in 
connexion with the occasion, gave me a new idea of the 
" fear and trembling" required in the business of our salva- 
tion. At a meeting of the African Civilization Society, 
got up by Yowell Buxton, Prince Albert was induced to 
take the Chair, and Sir Eobert consented to move the first 
resolution, tendering thanks to the Prince for taking the 
Chair. Many other personages of great eminence were 
present. The Prince had stipulated that a table should be 
placed in front of the Chair. "When the meeting com- 
menced, Dr. Beecham, who was in a convenient post of 
observation from the first, discovered that the Prince had 
wanted the table, that he might place his hat upon it, and 
that in the inside of his hat were notes of the short speech 
he had prepared, which was a very good one, and which he 
delivered with graceful ease and self-possession. When 
Sir Eobert rose, in a moment he appeared quite trans- 
formed ; his countenance and his whole frame were dilated 
with resolute effort and strong emotion. All the muscles 
of his face were distended ; he supported himself with his 
stick and trembled from head to foot. I suppose he had 
not previously been present at any time in an Exeter Hall 
Meeting : the place was new to him, and untried by him 
as a speaking -place. It seemed to me that he measured 
the scene with his eye. It was then a very bad place for 
any speaker, who had not a telling voice. The first words 
he uttered were so decidedly pronounced, as to shew — that 
he was resolved to be well heard. I accounted for his 


trembling, by the fact that his nerves were obviously 
strung up to intense earnestness of purpose. Every thing 
about him seemed to say — " On this peculiar and important 
occasion. I must not and will not fail." And he did not 
fail. Immediately after the nervousness of the first phrases 
he uttered, his speech flowed on like a deep and smooth 
stream. Addressing the Prince, as his Eoyal Highness, he 
said — You have auspicated and sanctified your first public 
appearance among us, by giving your countenance and 
support to an enterprise of liberal and enlightened philan- 
trophy. Some of us were startled with the word " auspi- 
cated" and took it for the moment as a happy coinage of 
his own ; but on examination, found that it was already 
authorized. He trembled as a Christian may well tremble 
in view of his solemn life-work of holiness unto the Lord — 
not with cowardly fear, but with absorbing earnestness of 
determination, on an occasion in which failure would have 
been intolerable. With much love 

I am, 

Your affectionate father, 

Isaac Keeling. 

Southpoet, 23rd Sept., 1865. 
My Dear Dr. Dixon. 

Many years ago I had the pleasure of your com- 
pany and that of several other ministers at Bristol, 
during the sittings of Conference. After your departure 
we found a volume containing the life and works of the 
excellent David McNicol, edited by yourself. We con- 
cluded you had left it silently, but not unwitting! } T , to 
avoid any ceremony in presenting it, or receiving acknow- 
ledgments. I have very often thought of this in your 
absence, and have wished that I had mentioned it to you, 
but have strangely forgotten to advert to it in any way 
when I have been present with you. Yet the fact is that 


I have felt doubtful whether I should not have replaced 
the book in your hands as one you had mislaid, and which 
could not properly be retained without your expressed per- 
mission. My interest in this question is now increased by 
the circumstance that, being in great weakness, and totter- 
ing on the road to the grave, I have Dr. McMcol as my 
kind and skilful medical friend, and I learn that he regrets 
to be without a copy of his father's life and works. Now 
the drift of this awkward and long deferred explanation 
is — that I should be gratified in being assured that you will 
kindly excuse my having kept the volume so long, and that 
you will authorise me to present it to Dr. McNicol. Perhaps 
you will either think me unaccountably deficient according 
to one view of the case, in leaving this matter so long un- 
mentioned, or otherwise over scrupulous in recalling it now; 
but I cannot help these two facts — that it has often hap- 
pened to me to have forgotten what I have really desired 
to remember, and that I am uneasy till such crooked things 
are made straight. 

You may perhaps remember that when I had the pleasure 
of your company at Bristol, Mr. Atherton, the President at 
that Conference was the guest of Mr. Willan, who was one 
of my colleagues at Bristol. It has been a rich treat to me 
to have the volume he has so recently published, containing 
sermons and outlines of Mr. Watson's from a manuscript 
book given to Mr. Willan by Mr. Atherton, containing also 
the Essay on Mr. Watson by the Eev. Jonathan Crowther, 
and your own masterly remarks on the character and writ- 
ings of Mr Watson. A verbal answer from you by Mr. 
Haigh will oblige your truly sympathizing friend, 

Isaac Keeling. 


Aughton Road, Southport, 
21st Nov., 1865. 
The Rev. Wm. Willan. 
My dear Friend, 

I think you will perceive, on reading the enclosed 
paper, that I have been thinking and writing earnestly ; 
but I rather doubt whether I have succeeded in producing 
what you desired or expected. If I have missed the mark, 
freely give me your views. It seems to me that what I 
have written is a sort of additional essay, on Watson and 
his outlines. The one I refer to, as being the first I ex- 
amined, is that on the claims and rewards of God's service : 
of others I could say as much, as they strongly excite my 

My daughter unites in kind regards to Mrs. Willan, 
yourself, and family, with yours most sincerely, 

Isaac Keeling. 

I first heard Mr. Watson, early in September of 1815. 
In the morning at half-past nine, I had preached at Buxton ; 
and after procuring a respectable supply for the evening 
service, I walked ten miles over the mountains to Maccles- 
field, in the afternoon of a hot summer's day, to hear Mr- 
Watson. The effort was richly repaid. Before the service 
I was informed by his host, that he had a severe cold, and 
was scarcely equal to the exertion of speaking in the 
Sunderland Street Chapel. When he commenced, it was 
apparent that the state of his voice was a hinderance to 
easy utterance. But the sermon was one of surpassing 
clearness, ease and power ; and has not been excelled by 
anything I have heard since ; except by masterpieces of 
the same kind. 

The thoughts were natural, but not obvious ; the langu- 
age select and noble, with a free and flowing ease. There 
was a pervading and exquisite appropriateness, without any 


appearance of effort : precision and perspicuity were hap- 
pily combined ; not with a laboured exactness, but with a 
grand simplicity. Not such a simplicity as may be cheaply- 
shewn in disposing common and scanty materials ; but rather 
that which results from such an arrangement of important 
parts, distinctly conceived, and placed according to their 
proper relation to each other, as, amidst a rich and rare fulness 
of luminous and orderly statements, preserves that air of 
spontaneousness, which puts the hearer or reader at ease, by 
presenting the substance of valuable information, or the pith 
of earnest and effective thinking ; unembarassed with the 
needless detail of merely formal and arbitrary method, 
and disencumbered from whatever would be trivial or 

In the eighteen following years of Mr. Watson's life, I 
heard him repeatedly; and may be said to have become 
somewhat accustomed to his style of thought, expression, 
and delivery ; as well as to his choice and treatment of 
subjects. He was as free as possible from anything which 
could fairly be called mannerism ; but he was as much 
distinguished by his grand style in preaching as Michael 
Angelo in painting. A few days after his election as Presi- 
dent at the Liverpool Conference, in 1826, he had an 
appointment, in the previously printed Conference plan, to 
preach in Brunswick Chapel, irrespective of his official 
sermon as President. He made no difficulty of the 
additional appointment, which he fulfilled (I think) on a 
Wednesday evening. The subject was " But go thou 
thy way till the end be*; for thou shalt rest, and stand in 
thy lot at the end of the days." Immediately after service, 
I met with Dr. Townley, who, speaking of the sermon, said 
he thought human talent could not go beyond that. 

Mr Willan has done good service by reprinting the \ two 
admirable Essays on Mr. Watson's character and writings : 
and the Outlines recorded by the tasteful friend of Mr* 


Atherton, render no disservice to the great reputation of 
Mr. Watson. The first of them which I examined is won- 
derfully impressive. It is manifestly an outpouring from 
the same mind that produced the sermon on the Spirit of 
Adoption. It ascends the loftiest regions of sublime 
thought, as by the bold and easy movements of an eagle's 
wing ; and in a few plain words of marvellous light and 
power, at once convinces the judgment, searches the con- 
science, and fills the imagination with grand and solemn 
conceptions. Several of the sketches are similarly instinct 
with a startling vitality. Brief, pungent, and vivid, — they 
are in the highest degree suggestive. As different as possi- 
ble from fleshless skeletons, they grapple with the will, 
alarm the fears, and animate the heart, of the thoughtful 
reader. They wield the power of appropriate words with 
a dazzling and subduing mastery ; shewing a command of 
language quite the reverse of verbosity, and such as those 
writers or speakers who have frequent recourse to loose, 
current phraseology, strive for in vain. 

After the sermon at Macclesfield in Sept., 1815, I and 
two other ministers, accompanied him to the place where 
he had to wait for a conveyance. While he was thus waiting, 
one of us — the late Eev. John James — requested his 
opinion on methods of preparing for the pulpit. His reply 
was frank and unreserved. He said he had tried all ways ; 
writing much, or little, or none ; and that what he found 
most convenient was such an outline as might easily be 
written on a quarto letter sheet, folded in four leaves 8vo., 
using extempore adoening. The last clause is in the very 
words he uttered in my presence. Mr. James mentioned a 
colleague of Mr. Watson at Hull, who said that at Beverley 
his own congregations were quite as large as Mr. Watson's. 
" Yes," said Mr. W., " some men think they thunder and 
lighten every time they preach." 


Southport, 4th November, 1865. 
My dear Sarah. 

Many times of late I have had earnest and solemn 
thoughts about my many children and grandchildren. They 
have to make their way in this life through a world full of 
difficulties and temptations; but, my heart's desire andprayer 
to God for them is, that they may be saved. I rej oice to believe 
that you are yourself awake to the great importance of 
eternal things, and that you are striving to train up your 
children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I 
wish to suggest the great value of the three volumes of 
Watson's Sermons which Dr. Chadwick had from me. I 
consider them the best sermons in our language. The Eev. 
W- Willan has lately published a supplementary volume, 
containing Outlines and Sermons by the Eev. Eichard 
Watson, taken in Short-hand by a tasteful admirer ; with 
two admirable Essays on his character and writings. I 
have read most of the sketches, and with great suprise and 
pleasure ; and with an increased sense of the value of his 
works and precious remains. I consider our Hymn Book 
second only to the Scriptures ; and one of the most in- 
structive and impressive of Commentaries. I trust you 
may long be spared to your children. When I have looked 
at the sad history of many of the Jewish kings, even those 
who had good fathers, it has seemed to me very likely that 
they had ignorant and thoughtless mothers ; and a neg- 
lected childhood. To my own mother I owe much in many 
ways. I should be glad to send you our smaller periodicals 
— the Miscellany, Teacher's Magazine, Early Days, and 
Juvenile Offering, of which I have many in hand, and 
they are all interesting : they shall be sent by the first oppor- 
tunity. As to my books generally I wish to place them in 
the hands of those of my children and grandchildren who 
are likely to read them and to prize them. I have made a 
little progress in appropriating them by writing*names in 


several volumes, but there are still many about which I am 
at a loss how best to dispose of them. 

We — that is I and Lucy — are very glad to have Etty 
with us. I think she is gaining something as to health 
and information ; and that it will be well for her to stay 
here as long as you can spare her. By little at a time, I 
learn much about your careful training of your children, and 
the success with which God blesses your endeavours. I feel 
more for you all than I can express ; above all I am con- 
cerned for the fact — that my many children and grand- 
children have souls, which will either be saved or lost for 
ever. I have to work out my own salvation with fear and 
trembling ; and to acknowledge with Wesley, Hymn 292. 

"Every moment, Lord, I want 
The merit of Thj- death. 
Never shall I want it less." 

I am very weak ; but as well as I can expect to be at 
seventy-seven. I have great reason to be thankful, — to 
walk humbly with God — and to trust in His mercy for me 
and mine. 

Your loving father, 

Isaac Keeling. 

Southport, 2nd Jan., 1866. 
My dear Bassett, 

For a long time I have been desiring to write to 
you but have been hindered in many ways. Eecent illness 
has made my life hang in doubt, and has rendered me more 
anxious to write without delay, 

You will remember that when I last wrote I passed by 
other subjects, that I might request your attention to one 
especially. I hear with interest of your energy and success 
in your profession ; but when I think of the endless life to 
come, my deepest feelings yearn over you and yours. 


Though my time and thoughts have been occupied more or 
less about sacred things for sixty years, I do not feel that 
to be any ground of confidence. On the contrary, I review 
that long period, with a humiliating sense of unworthiness 
and unfaithfulness, for want of a closer walk with God. I 
have still to work out my own salvation with fear and 
trembling ; and my conclusion is — 

" For ever here my rest shall be, 
Close to thy bleeding side ; 
This all my hope, and all my plea, 
' For me the Saviour died ! ' 

My dying Saviour, and my God, 

Fountain for guilt and sin, 
Sprinkle me ever with thy blood, 

And cleanse, and keep me clean ! 

"Wash me, and make me thus thine own ! 

Wash me, and mine thou art ! 
Wash me, but not my feet alone, 

My hands, my head, my heart ! 

The atonement of thy blood apply, 

Till faith to sight improve ; 
Till hope in full fruition die, 

And all my soul be love ! " 

I never now hear of a death without being reminded of 
the fact — that a departed spirit is saved or lost, once for all, 
and for evee. 

Though I have other cares, and some of them weighty, 
the recollection that I have nine living children and ten 
grandchildren, causes me very serious concern, on account 
of the snares and temptations through which they will 
have to pass ; and on account of the uncertainty whether 
they will so attend to the teaching of the Word and Spirit 
of God, as to flee from the wrath to come, and to make 
Christ their timely and sure refuge. I often wish very 
earnestly, that I had been able to do more and better for 
each of you, both temporally and spiritually. Yet I do 
not forget that with much to be thankful for, many and 


precious mercies, I have encouragement for prayer and 
hope. I commend to you, as hand-books for habitual and 
careful reading, the Bible and Hymn Book. I prize them 
more than ever. The Hymns are in many instances 
spirited and faithful renderings of Divine testimonies. 
You have some notion of the degree in which I value the 
book of Proverbs. The following words, from the third 
chapter, 5 — 7 verses are worthy of most thoughtful atten- 
tion and claim implicit submission. " Trust in the Lord 
with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own under- 
standing. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall 
direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes : fear the 
Lord, and depart from evil." And the gracious sayings of 
Jesus, Matthew xi. 29, 30, are words of truth and power, 
and loving kindness. " Take my yoke upon you, and learn 
of me ; for I am meek and lowly in heart : and ye shall 
find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my 
burden is light." 

Your affectionate Father, 

Isaac Keeling. 

Eaeby, near Skipton, 

15th December, 1866. 
My dear Dr. Hannah, 

Your very kind and cordial note of September 
1 9th was refreshing to my spirit, as, " Iron sharpeneth iron." 
The sympathy of old friends is especially precious ; yet I 
do not forget, and sometimes suggest to others, as occasion 
may serve, that it is also right and good to keep the heart 
open for the kindness of new friends — subject to the 
caution, " Prove all things." 

I am fervently desirous to accomplish what I intimated 
to our President respecting the revising of my manuscripts; 
and am often trying to do something : but my weakness is 
such that I can do very little at any one time. Kecently 


I fell helplessly # from mere want of strength to stand 
during dressing. This failure taught me the need of special 
precaution. Other circumstances, numerous and inevitable 
family anxieties — arising from the necessities temporal and 
spiritual — of children and grandchildren, are continually 
reminding me of my and their dependence on Him " who 
careth" for us. Through many distractions I look to Him 
whose word " liveth and abideth for ever." 

By the removal of Mr. Bowers and Mr. W. M. Bunting, 
I have lost highly valued personal friends. 

" Friend after friend departs ! " 

" Wherefore in never ceasing prayer, 
My soul to Thy continual care 

I faithfully commend ! 
Assured that Thou through life shalt save 
And shew Thyself beyond the grave 

My everlasting friend." 

More and more do I prize our Hymn-book : not only for 
its surpassing devotional poetry, but, as a sound and 
spirited commentary on the words which are spirit and life. 

I take this opportunity to say — that I was glad to see 
that portion of Conference intelligence which reported our 
President's caution against complimentary prayers, Such 
prayers have often pained me — as being at once sancti- 
monious and fulsome, — flagrantly offending against godly 
order, in going round by the Almighty to flatter a fellow- 
creature, — a gross impropriety, offensive to good sense, and 
inconsistent with godly simplicity. 

I congratulate you that, after long and honourable ser- 
vice, in a very important position, you are still able to 
accomplish so much public duty on great occasions, such 
as those recently reported in the Watchman. 

There is one clause in your very kind note of September 
19th, which has constrained me to humbling recollection 
and self-examination. You say, " The God whom you have 


so long and faithfully served in the Gospel of His Son." 
Now, though I am conscious of having endeavoured to know 
and to preach the Gospel, — of having resisted many 
plausible attempts to pervert it, — and of having tried to 
administer its godly discipline to the best of my judgment 
and ability, I cannot place any confidence in my own 
faithfulness ; being, as I am, ashamed before God of my 

Under a sermon by Edward Jackson in 1805, from Psalm» 
xxi. 4. " I said, Lord be merciful unto me : heal my soul, 
for I have sinned against thee " — I was stripped of self- 
righteousness ; and convinced that, though I had been 
graciously and providentially restrained from vice, I was 
so far guilty before God that I must not dare to say, even 
to a gross sinner, "Stand by thyself, — I am holier than 
thou." Under the same sermon I was convinced that 
Christ is the only and the safe refuge ; that delay in coming 
to Him was causeless and could avail nothing ; that there- 
fore it would be a waste of time and effort to try any thing 
else; that his gracious word declares all things are ready 
now, then why should I not come now ? It was usual with 
E. Jackson to say, in preaching, " Make haste ! man ! make 
haste !" The hymn which closed the service contained the 
verse, " My God is reconciled," etc. That verse filled my 
thoughts, on my way home that Sunday evening, in a 
manner which at the time seemed to me a testimony of 
acceptance. The suddenness and apparent easiness of the 
change was long an occasion of doubts and fears, and of 
anxious self-inspection, with a careful reading of Wesley's 
sermons as an earnest enquirer. I had previously been 
unsettled by Paine's Age of Eeason, yet still not daring to 
give up prayer for Divine guidance. I had then often and 
earnestly pondered a work of Eobert Dodsley's, said to be 
his best, — which I first saw in a form which I think must 
have been long out of print, — as a code of moral sentences, 



professing to be traced to the Grand Lamas of Thibet. 
During my unsettled and wavering state of speculative 
unbelief, I had been trying, of course vainly, to frame my 
feelings and conduct according to the plausible maxims of 
Dodsley's Economy of Human Life. In the midst of these 
efforts I had been mortified by the discovery that my 
passions were often rebelling against my high-toned views 
of moral excellence ; that in fact, I was rolling the stone 
of Sisyphus. It was in the midst of such mental conflicts, 
and of the desponding weariness they produced, that I 
heard Edward Jackson, at Burslem, on a Sunday evening, 
in the summer of 1805. I am aware that my experience 
was then very crude, — that I was but a babe in Christ, and 
that my long struggles with doubts and fears were partly 
owing to weakness of faith, and partly to unfaithfulness to 
the little light and faith I had. 

I still feel much as I did under that sermon at Burslem, 
but with an increased sense of the divine majesty and mercy 
of our crucified Lord, as nobly exhibited in the glorious 
hymn, beginning 

" O God ! of good the unfathomed sea," 

and with feelings which say — with the 436 th hymn 

" Never will I remove, Out of thy hands my cause, 
But rest in thy redeeming love, And hang upon thy cross." 

I have been much interested and instructed by your 
excellent and appropriate Funeral sermon for Mr. W. M. 
Bunting, which is worthy of yourself and of the solemn 

I was sorry to learn from your last that Mrs. Hannah is 
a confirmed invalid. It is a prized comfort that she is still 
spared to you. 

With affectionate regards to Mrs. Hannah and yourself, 
I remain, my dear Dr. Hannah, 

Your sincere old friend, 



Earby, near Skipton, 
6th June, 1866. 
My dear Mrs. Bowers. 

This morning I received the mournful memorials 
of my departed friend, one of my early friends, among 
contemporary Wesleyan Ministers, the Kev. John Bowers. 
Though the sad accounts of his suffering state previous to 
my removal from Southport made the probable termination 
chiefly a question of time, it was yet with a feeling next to 
painful surprise that I heard from Dr. McMcol of his 
departure. Mr. Bowers and I first met at a District meet- 
ing, held at Longton in May 1815, where he was in his 
second year at Northwich and I in my first at Buxton. 
We have ever since been confiding friends ; often in posi- 
tions to be acting together; once placed by the acts of 
others in appearance only as rivals, but never having had a 
personal misunderstanding. I had a first opportunity of 
observing his admirable skill as a reader at a Liverpool 
Conference in 1820, and the next specimen of his powers 
as a speaker which I had the pleasure of witnessing was in 
a Bible Meeting at Wakefield, with Lord Milton, afterwards 
Earl Fitzwilliam, in the Chair. Mr. Bowers was then in 
the Wakefield Circuit. His manly speech was remarkable 
for clearness and appropriateness, and for the becoming and 
gentlemanly ease and force with which it was delivered. 
Interesting recollections of our frequent and lively inter- 
course mingled with the diversified memories of fifty-one 
years, crowd upon me. These are to me cherished remem- 
brances of a Christian friend; whose candour and constancy 
I greatly prized ; whose delicate fidelity, in circumstances 
which were a real test of friendship, I hold in honour ; and 
whose joys I hope to share in the endless life to come. I 
began to write previous to the date above, but have been 
hindered by severe illness. With kind regards to yourself 


and your bereaved fajnily, whom I commend to their father's 
God, believe me 

My dear Mrs. Bowers, 

Your sympathizing friend, 


Eaeby, neae Skipton, 
31st Dec., 1866. 
To Mes. R R Keeling. 
My dear Sister, 

I have been desiring and intending to write to 
you from the day I received the Funeral Card, announcing 
the removal of your son. The motto on the card — " "With 
Christ which is far better," — confirmed as it is by your in- 
teresting account of him in connexion with his brother's 
interview, is the key to a boundless store of consoling facts. 
To have such assurance of the eternal safety and felicity of 
a child, escaped from the incalculable perils and tempta- 
tions of this world, is a precious and inexhaustible fund of 
comforting reflections. Everlasting things are the true 
realities. In my seventy-eighth year with increasing 
weakness, an habitual sense of the fact that my time is 
short ; and with a memory crowded with recollections of 
the departed, I cordially sympathise with those who, like 
you, have committed beloved ones to the dust in solemn 
confidence that they are, " with Christ." 

Believe me, 

Your affectionate brother, 


Eaeby, neae Skipton, 

15th March, 1867. 
My Deae Me, Jackson. 

For several days past, I have been very desirous 
to convey to you some expression of the pleasure with 

which I have looked over the six volumes of lives of early- 
Preachers, which I obtained a few days ago. They are not 
entirely new to me : for T had read portions of them many 
years ago, in the old Magazines ; but it is refreshing to see 
them in their present collective form ; which I presume 
owes much of its completeness to your intimate acquain- 
tance with Wesleyan documents, and your rare qualifications 
for combining, and illustrating the facts and traditions of 
Wesleyan times. What times were those ! They laboured 
and suffered, and we have entered into their labours. I am 
glad to observe that you have still the buoyant energy to 
undertake and to accomplish so much in the manner of 
your excellent centenary volume. I received a kind letter 
this morning from Mr. Naylor, who is still working hard in 
preaching, in attending meetings, etc., and, as formerly, in- 
dignant against precocious juvenile presumption and irregu- 
larity. From what he states about his health, I am rather 
apprehensive, as indeed he seems to be, of a decline in his 
long-enduring vigour. The last time I saw him, he walked 
with a large, long step like a young man. I am unable to 
cope with him or with you in any form of activity. I 
have a great desire to prepare something for our press ; but 
my weakness, combining with short and dark days and 
severe weather, limits and cripples my endeavours. Many 
recollections of my past years have faded : but I still have 
remembrances of the District Meeting in Bradford, at which 
we first met ; and where (after having written at fifteen, a 
poem, entitled " An Enquiry after Happiness," which Mr. 
Edmondson transmitted to Mr. Benson, and which Mr. 
Eodda, with whom I dined at his own table, in London, 
about 1807, revised and recommended to the editor, so that 
it appeared in our Magazine, in 1809,) it seemed to be sup- 
posed that, because I delivered a sermon that would have 
read flowingly in print, I must, of course, have borrowed it 
from books. When I began this letter, I did not contem- 



piate any reference to the Bradford District Meeting in 
1814. But the impressions of that day were an occasion 
of long continued discouragement; to overcome which 
required years of comparatively successful effort, and still 
left painful memories. It may be partly owing to my 
natural diffidence that it has happened to me to be often 
misapprehended ; so often as to be reminded by my own 
case, of a remark of Dr. Johnson, to the effect — that any 
one who is in a position to be frequently spoken of, will 
have his confidence in general history shaken, by the 
rumours about himself which will be obscurely circulated, 
till they reach his own ear ; rumours which he knows to 
be untrue, and grossly inaccurate. 

There are many things in my recollections for which I 
am ashamed and humbled before the Lord, and which con- 
strain me to say — 

" Me with all my sins I cast 
On my atoning God." 

I remain, my dear Mr. Jackson, 
With much affection, 

Your sincere old friend, 

Isaac Keeling. 

P.S. — I know nothing more likely than your six volumes 
to stir up the spirit of vital godliness among our people ; 
if only a general reading of them can be secured. Zealous 
wealthy friends would do well to present sets of them to 
school libraries. 




" What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own 
soul ? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul V — Matt. xvi. 26. 

Two things are implied in these strong interrogations ; as 
certain knowledge that no possible nor imaginable combi- 
nation of the most perfect worldly enjoyments can ever 
amount to an equality with the worth of the soul ; and a 
sure anticipation that to every thoughtful and sincere mind, 
this truth, when suggested, must appear indubitable. The 
bold supposition which Jesus makes in proposing these 
questions, places in a very striking light, the incomparable 
importance of future happiness, and the superiority of a 
religious over a worldly life. He is so certain of these 
facts, that, for the purpose of illustration, he allows us to 
imagine a case which never occurs, and is merely conceiv- 
able; — that one man should gain and enjoy the whole 
world : — and with such a case in view, he challenges us to 
say whether that all would compensate for the ruin of the 

If we form our estimate of temporal happiness, not from 
the vain outward shows, but from the sober realities of 
life ; we must conclude that complete felicity on earth is 
but a dream of imagination ; — that the sunshine of pros- 
perity is often shadowed with clouds of calamity or discon- 
tent — that enjoyment is generally moderate, transient, 
cloying and unsatisfactory : while much of life is insipid, 
and much painful j the pains often severe, and sometimes 
lasting. We presume that the most remarkable success 
generally fails to verify the promises of hope, and to 


silence the clamours of desire ; that some enjoyments are 
purchased with the surrender of others, and that the 
sacrifice is often made in vain. Industry, frugality, policy, 
self denial, vigilance and the spirit of enterprise, though 
combined and exerted with patient perseverance, are some- 
times finally defeated by a trivial accident. Those whom 
the world calls happy, who are regarded with admiration 
and envy, have obtained only some few instruments of 
enjoyment; and are liable to the attacks of a thousand 
evils, which foresight cannot prevent, which dignity cannot 
awe, which wealth cannot bribe, which amusement cannot 
dissipate, which power cannot repel, which expedients 
can seldom evade, or remedies remove. The general 
condition of worldly men is thus contracted, uncertain, 
and unsatisfying. 

The reading of this passage reminds most persons that, 
it is an undeniable truth that no man ever did or ever can 
really gain the whole world. But if this be urged as an 
oty'ection or limitation of the doctrine of the text, it is not 
applicable or pertinent truth. It is true indeed, but not to 
the purpose. Not what is probable or possible, but what is 
conceivable, is here presented for consideration. For in this 
sentence our Lord does not confine our view of life to its 
hard and vexatious realities. He permits us for the pur- 
pose of instructive comparison, to contemplate the false 
splendour of such scenes of human happiness as Hope 
displays to the ambitious, the covetous, the gay, and the 
young. He allows us to indulge imagination ; to behold in 
our mind's eye an assemblage of worldly advantages- 
lofty as pride, boundless as avarice, flattering as self-love, 
bright and glowing as the best days of youthful pleasure,' 
and unruffled as the clear azure of a cloudless sky. He 
allows us to suppose one man accumulating enjoyments to 
the utmost extent of possibility ; and uniting in his own 
lot all the various means of delight, which are divided in 


small shares even among the prosperous and the eminent. 
And when. we have surrounded our ideal happy man with 
all imaginable pleasures, — the text concludes the vision — 
with the damnation of the man's soul; and then bids us 
balance his gains with his losses. We see in a moment 
the immeasurable disparity. His acquisitions, however 
extensive and accumulated, being but of momentary 
possession, his loss being total and eternal, there appears 
no proportion or comparison between them. And, this main 
point being decided, another result necessarily follows : — if 
the most complete and glorious scene of worldly good that 
an ambitious and voluptuous mind can imagine, is thus 
lighter than the dust in the balance, what then are ordi- 
nary circumstances of real life, when weighed against the 
loss of the soul ? Less than nothing, — lighter than vanity. 
This interrogative text appears abundantly more simple, 
familiar, and convincing, than if the truths it would enforce 
were formally stated. It presents them to the imagination, 
embodied, exemplified, and alive, in the person of an in- 
dividual — a man. Let us follow the text in method, as 
well as in doctrine : let our subject of this sermon be an 

That we may more fully apprehend and feel the doctrine 
of this passage, let us consider 

I. The whole case supposed : — then 

II. The questions proposed upon the case ; — 

1. We are to view at large the supposed case — a man 
gaining the whole world. 

The spirited reasoning of the passage is, as we have 
already shewn, constructed on this principle : — the cause of 
religion is so strong and superior, that we may make great 
concessions to the admirers of a worldly life ; we may 
allow them to assume an extreme case of worldly happi- 
ness, far beyond what is probable or possible, and to the 
extent of what is conceivable ; — yet after all, Religion, by 


means of its power, over futurity, will retain an undeniable 
and vast superiority. 

We intend to state this case in the most favourable 
manner ; and, as imaginary blessings cost nothing, we may 
bestow them freely. 

That this individual who is to gain the world may enter 
it with all possible advantages, let him be the heir of a 
long line of kings, in a country rich and peaceful, eminent 
for arts and arms, strong in resources and alliances, and 
terrible to his enemies. Let the hours and years of his 
childhood be so judiciously superintended, as to allow him 
all the gratifications which can be consistent with the 
regulation of the temper, and the formation of habits of 
obedience. Let the cheerfulness of his disposition qualify 
him for the full enjoyment of every childish pleasure. Let 
the vigour of his mind be such as to render his progress in 
learning easy and rapid. Let his whole education be so 
happily conducted, as to secure all princely advantages, 
without the besetting vices of expectant royalty. 

As he approaches a manly age, let the gradual unfold- 
ings of his character and accomplishments be such as to 
procure him a real popularity. Let his person and mind 
exhibit a rare combination of grace, dignity, and energy. 
Allow him also a sufficient degree of youthful sensibility 
to enjoy the world, common to such as know that an empire 
is their inheritance, and so much judgment and firmness as 
to resist the allurements of viscous pleasure. This brief 
sketch of his youth includes a portion of excellence and 
enjoyment which is barely possible, and has perhaps never 
been realized. 

That his progress to happiness and to eminence may not 
be retarded, by any interval of listless languor and re- 
strained ambition, let him succeed to his inheritance of 
empire, as soon as his faculties are ripened to vigour, as 
soon as adequate accurate knowledge of affairs qualifies 


him for the exercise of decision, as soon as in the school 
of prompt and skilful obedience, he has learned to com- 
mand. On receiving the sceptre of his forefathers, let 
him find at his disposal a full treasury, — able and faithful 
ministers, — a brave and well-disciplined army, — allies ser- 
viceable, but not formidable, — and a loyal, numerous, and 
prosperous people. 

That he may proceed by easy and quick steps to the 
summit of grandeur, let the course of events, speedily after 
his accession, involve him in a just and necessary war. In 
the management of it, suppose him to manifest all the great 
qualities of a hero. Let his military enterprises be con- 
ceived with the sublime daring of genius, matured and 
combined with prudence, pursued with indefatigable energy, 
executed with rapidity and success. Let him be supposed 
to gain -every town to which he lays siege, to have the 
advantage in every engagement, and to gain an increase of 
territory and revenue as the result of every campaign. 
Suppose him also to exercise an amiable clemency and 
moderation, amidst the pride and licence of victorious war ; 
and. to be preceded, in every march, by the terror of his 
power, and the conciliating report of his justice and mercy. 
Let him pass with little embarrassment, and without sick- 
ness or a wound, through the numerous stratagems, hard- 
ships and dangers of protracted warfare. We have now 
proceeded through another stage of his progressive pros- 
perity, and have conferred upon him many combined 
advantages for which some of the greatest of mankind 
have sighed in vain. 

Passing over a long succession of extraordinary triumphs, 
let us take an advanced view of his splendid progress, and 
behold him so consolidating his conquests, by a wise and 
vigorous system of government, as to make his empire in- 
crease as much in compact strength as in extent ; and 
employing his accumulated resources with such energetic 


and unerring policy? as to everwhelm every opponent, and, 
finally attain universal empire. None ever have acquired 
such dominion, none ever will; but the supposition, that a 
man should gain the whole world, seems literally to include 
as much ; and it is sufficient for the purposes of instruc- 
tion that such a case is conceivable. 

Now we have conducted him to this eminence, let us 
place ourselves in thought at his side, and pause to survey, 
from this summit of grandeur, the variety and extent of 
his acquisitions. — We behold below him — a thousand mil- 
lions of mankind, We see all looking up to him as the 
fountain of honour. We see all dependent on him, for 
security of property, and protection of life. We behold 
all the mines, and the merchandise, and the magnificence 
of the earth made tributary to his treasury. We behold 
the armies of all nations reposing in peace under his 
imperial standard. Having the disposal of the lives of all, 
as his subjects, he might command as much of their wealth 
as Tie had occasion for; and would, in virtue of his power, 
be the richest of mankind. Unlimited authority and in- 
exhaustible wealth would place all the means and instru- 
ments of delight before him. The most perfect productions 
of nature, and the most exquisite inventions of art, would 
abound around him in endless variety ; preventing his 
wishes, and soliciting his choice. In short, by the acqui- 
sition of supreme power, he would obtain convenient access 
to the wealth, honours, and pleasures of the world ; all 
that could stimulate or gratify the various appetites of 
man; all that a worldly and unsanctified mind conceives of 

Can we add any more ? Can we enlarge this scheme of 
happiness ? What we have to bestow is perhaps more than 
equal to all that has been stated. There are few that with 
such acquisitions and nothing more, would not remain 


"We have already supposed him to possess genius and 
learning. To extend the rich range of his worldly enjoy- 
ments, give him the superiority in those envied distinc- 
tions. Allow him to excel in cultivated, comprehensive, 
penetrating intellect, as well as in fortune and power. 
Endow him with those qualities of the mind and of the 
heart, without which abundant means of happiness would 
be supplied in vain; with correct taste to select, strong 
passions to feel, and delicate sensibility to refined enjoy- 
ment. He would thus be capable of the greatest of all 
human pleasures — those of knowledge and affection. 

In order to give him, still more completely, the entire 
uninterrupted enjoyment of all worldly good, let him have, 
through life, firm and vigorous health, and an ever-flowing 
tide of success. Behold him stepping forward, from one 
prosperous event to another, in easy and regular progres- 
sion, without loss, repulse, or disappointment. Allow him, 
along with the grandeur and fire of superior genius, so 
much calculating good sense, so much moderation and 
self command, as to check unreasonable wishes, and to 
proportion his enterprises to his resources. Let even his 
conquest of the globe be undertaken, not from the sponta- 
neous aspirings and romantic ardour of inexperienced 
ambition ; but from the encouragement and excitement 
afforded, to a mind as prudent as energetic, by the mar- 
vellous and triumphant success of his more limited 
projects; and by the gradual accumulation (during the 
execution, and through the accomplishment of those 
limited projects) of revenues so ample, and armies so 
numerous and efficient, as to make every nation desire his 
alliance, and dread his displeasure, and to render the 
subjugation of the world a rational and feasible specula- 
tion. By means of such just views of the possibilities of 
his actual situation, and such self-denying restraint of his 
desires and of his genius, he would escape much anxiety 


and many mortifications. Conceive of him also as govern- 
ing his conquered world, with such vigour, mildness, and 
address, as to promote the happiness, and acquire the love 
of his innumerable subjects ; and thus keep his numerous 
provinces together in tranquil order, without apprehension 
on the part of the ruler, or rebellion among the subjects. 
In these articles, we have made suppositions in his favour, 
as improbable as that of universal empire; — but — we are 
speaking of one who gains the whole world. 

But, is nothing yet wanting to a complete scheme of 
worldly happiness ? To fill up the circle of enjoyments, 
we must give him a family, and surround him with a 
plenitude of dear, domestic comforts. We will not give 
him the harem of an Eastern Sultan : — that would be 
distraction and not happiness. No : in the pure society 
of one amiable woman, let him prove all the refined 
satisfaction that feminine excellence can bestow : let the 
partner of his heart and throne be the most perfect of the 
fair in person and mind. Suppose him to have affectionate 
and virtuous relatives ; sincerely devoted to his person and 
interest, and prudently zealous for his authority and 
honour. Let his children be many; all amiable, accom- 
plished, and dutiful. Imagine all this happiness to 
continue and increase through a long life : and to all the 
advantages already enumerated, join just so much human 
virtue or worldly morality, as would keep his conscience 
unalarmed, and be consistent with the want of piety - 

If, in any important article, this scheme of worldly 
happiness appears defective — if anything can be imagined 
or recollected that would render this man's satisfaction 
more full and permanent, let that also be added : give him 
all conceivable grandeur, tranquillity, and pleasure: every- 
thing but true religion. We have thus endeavoured to 
develope the chief parts of what is comprised in our Lord's 
general supposition, — that one man should gain the whole 


II. The questions proposed upon the case ; calculate 
what he has profited ; and consider what he shall give in 
exchange for his soul. 

We are to contemplate the same individual as dying in 
sin, and losing his soul. 

All the advantages we have enumerated do not include 
immortality. These progressive scenes of an eventful 
history of worldly happiness, which though unattainable, 
is yet conceivable, like the memorials of the patriarchs, 
must end with the melancholy statement, — " and he died." 

Let us, however, allow him to retain all his unparalleled 
acquisitions to the last moment. Let his departure be 
preceded by no sickness and attended by no pain. Let 
there be " no bands in his death : let his strength be firm." 
Let him never be disturbed with the apprehension of 
death ; nor be warned of its approach by any decay of 
vigour, or loss of appetite, or depression of mind. Let him 
not have any premonitions. In a moment, without a sigh, 
or a struggle, let him expire in the midst of magnificence 
and enjoyment, and as full of animating exultation and 
hope as one who has long been the highest of mankind 
can possibly be conceived to be. Behold him thus sud- 
denly departing. 

Up to this point, no doubt, all appears very joyous 
and splendid : — but — what a change this moment makes ! 
Where now are those dazzling scenes of successful war 
and sovereign grandeur, and superhuman power and 
pleasure, which we have so long been contemplating ? 
They have vanished like a morning dream ; — like phantoms 
of enchantment. The blaze of glory is quenched : it is 
midnight darkness, without one ray. Where now is the 
master of the world ? He lies senseless and silent — where 
— it matters not. The pomp of a state funeral may yet 
await him ; but, to him, it is less than vanity — it is empti- 
ness — it is nothing ! He enjoys no more than his coilin 



does, of that world which he has quitted. The chamber 
where he lies in state is as dark to his eyes as the vault 
where his dust must slumber till the awakening peal of 
the last trumpet. Where are his possessions? They 
remain — but not for him; the poorest of his surviving 
slaves may well pity him now. Of all that he required, of 
all that he enjoyed, of all that he commanded, he retains 
nothing — nothing but the tormenting, undying remem- 
brance of a lost good, of a lost world. 

And this is but a part of his loss. As he lived destitute 
of true religion, he never enjoyed its temporal blessings. 
Had he proved these, he would have found more happiness 
on his knees before God, than on his throne, or at the head 
of armies : — he would have found godliness with content- 
ment, greater gain than the treasures of the universe : — he 
would have found victory over his own heart, more grati- 
fying than the conquest of empires : he would have found 
the witness of the Spirit, with the testimony of a good 
conscience, sweeter than the joy of worldly popularity : — 
he would have derived, even from his worldly possessions, 
a more substantial, and pure enjoyment; for, "blessed are 
the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." These blessr 
ings, and many more, religion could have bestowed upon 
him ; but he has missed them all ; and now the opportu- 
nity of attaining them has for ever passed away. He who 
has the whole world without godliness, neglects (even in 
this life) more than he enjoys. 

And still we have viewed but a part, and that the 
smaller part of his loss. He has lost, for ever, the glories 
of the inheritance of the saints in light : glories as far 
transcending all the magnificence of his world, as the sun 
excels the faintest, glimmering, planetary star; or as the 
mild, steady, general light of day excels the gloomy, flick- 
ering glare of a torch. 

He has lost a throne and dominion among the princi- 


palities and powers of heaven. He has lost enjoyments 
that would have been perfect, eternal, and, probably, for 
ever increasing. His total loss is beyond the limits of 
calculation ; for all the advantages bestowed upon him in 
this world, however improbable or impossible, may yet be 
conceived and described, but the blessings of that heavenly 
world, for which God in his Divine goodness designed him, 
are greater than our mightiest conceptions. " Eye hath 
not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered the heart 
of man to conceive the things God hath prepared for them 
that love him." 

It is further to be considered, that having died in his 
sins, impenitent, unpardoned, unholy, without piety, he has 
not only the punishment of loss, but also of positive misery; 
of the most extreme degree, of the most dreadful kind; 
unmixed with comfort, unmitigated by hope. The sentence 
of the damned includes hell-fire ; a tremendous penalty 
which we dare not explain away, and whose literal import 
no man has authority to deny. But hell-fire is not the 
sum of their penal sufferings : there is also the worm that 
dieth not; the self-consuming, everlasting anguish of a 
bad mind ; the unutterable, gloomy, restless despair of a 
desolate spirit, tormented with unavailing, yet inevitable 
reflection on the interminable miseries of " the wrath to 
come." The sum of these things is the loss of the soul : 
that is, the loss of its eternal happiness, and its condemna- 
tion to perpetual misery. 

Such an individual as we have contemplated, having 
such acquisitions, and coming to such an end, would have 
no common damnation. We have not beheld him stained 
with any revolting vices, or disgraceful sins ; these were 
not necessary to insure a supremacy of misery in the future 
world. To enjoy so large a share of the gifts of nature and 
providence, to have access to the gifts of grace, and yet to 
live and die altogether ungodly, renders life itself one long 


continuous, enormous, aggravated sin. But let us still deal 
favourably with him. Let us pass by all the aggravations 
arising from the abuse of so many benefits ; and suppose 
him to have only the most mitigated portion of penal 
misery. The advantage of a holy life is so immense and 
so unquestionable, that its advocates may afford to make 
such a gratuitous concession : but the basis of that opinion 
or prejudice which prefers this world, is so weak and nar- 
row, that such a concession will still leave it helpless and 
tottering. The least punishment in that world of torment 
involves a total destitution of all good, natural and moral ; 
and an intolerable degree of inflicted wretchedness : it 
excludes all remedy, all hope, even the dreadful, forlorn 
hope of annihilation. The most awful circumstance that 
can be connected with misery is eternity. These two 
combined, in the sentence of wrath to come, form the most 
tremendous subject within the range of human ideas. 

A celebrated French preacher, of the last century, whose 
ministry was chiefly confined to the simple inhabitants of 
country villages, being, on some occasion, appointed to 
preach in one of the churches of Paris, was attended by a 
large congregation, composed chiefly of men of rank, wealth 
and learning, who had been attracted by the fame of his 
eloquence. TJn intimidated by the number and splendour 
of his new auditors, and judging the majority of them to 
be men of the world, he declared his intention to deal 
faithfully with them as his fellow-sinners, and to address 
them on the necessity of salvation, the certainty of death, 
the uncertainty of its hour so terrible to sinners, final 
impenitence, the last judgment, hell, and eternity When, 
towards the close of the sermon, he was exciting his 
vigorous mind to its greatest effort, in order to give them 
some notion, however inadequate, of the affecting character 
of that eternity which their sins were preparing for them, 
he said, among other things, " Do you know what eternity 


is ? It is a clock, the pendulum of which incessantly says, 
Always — Ever — Always — Ever — Always — Ever ! During 
these vibrations a damned soul cries out, ' What o'clock is 
it?' and the same voice answers him, 'Eternity !'" * Yes, 
should some miserable spirit, ten thousand years after the 
day of judgment enquire, What is the time? the proper 
reply will be, It is eternity. The sufferings of such a soul 
will sometime amount to a greater sum of misery than has 
been endured by all generations of men from the fall to 
this day. History is full of plagues, crimes, and calamities 
occasioned by crimes ; but all that has been inflicted on 
mankind, in all ages and countries, by storms and earth- 
quakes, by pestilence and famine, by fire and sword, by 
public oppression and domestic cruelty, by guilty passions 
and by the terrors of remorse, being endured by a limited 
number of finite beings in a measured duration, is short of 
infinitude. Any degree of pain, therefore, which is pro- 
tracted and perpetuated to eternity, must, in that abyss of 
futurity, accumulate to a greater sum of wretchedness, than 
all the miseries of this world multiplied by the greatest 
number for which language has found a name. 

Having now seen this man gaining the whole world, and 
losing his soul, let us thirdly consider the questions, what 
he has profited, and what he shall give in exchange for his 

Not many words need be wasted in ascertaining to 
which part of his account the balance belongs ; though no 
terms in human language can adequately express the 
extent and horror of his ruin. 

The whole account now stands on the losing side- 
Whatever once stood on the page of profit, is transferred 
to that of loss. He has lost that world which he had, and 
those comforts of religion which he might have had, that 

See Principles of Eloqtieiice, by M, .Maury. 


heavenly inheritance which religion would have secured. 
Such are his losses that he has now less than nothing : he 
is in debt to an incalculable sum : he has nothing where- 
with to pay : the uttermost farthing is demanded. 

Such being the utter helplessness of his condition, how 
can we proceed with the remaining part of his case ? how 
can we say what he shall give in exchange for his soul ? 
If the least portion of his former possessions would redeem 
him, he has it not. He can make no offers ; he can enter 
into no terms ; he can undertake no conditions. If he had 
anything in possession or reversion, he could not offer it ; 
it would be swallowed up by the immensity of his debts. 

In order then to proceed with this important enquiry, 
we must again have recourse to supposition. It is already 
ascertained that he cannot give anything in exchange for 
his soul : and nothing he can be supposed to have or 
acquire would be sufficient for its precious ransom : but, 
that we may judge what he would give, and that we may 
see how (according to the known principles and motives of 
human conduct) he will act, if he has a fair opportunity of 
shewing the change of his sentiments, let a messenger from 
the throne of God descend to visit him in the fiery depths 
of the bottomless abyss : let his trial be made as soon as 
he has been long enough in that world of pain for its 
unutterable instruction to have passed through his soul, for 
his spirit to know and feel the tremendous intensity of its 
punishment, and to be duly impressed with the certainty 
of its unrelaxing rigour and perpetual continuance. Let 
the etherial messenger now tell him, " Thou art at liberty 
to quit, for a season, this mansion of pain: thou mayest 
return to the throne of the universe : that sceptre which 
death dashed from thy hand, shall, with all its attendant 
prerogatives and power, be restored to thy grasp : thy late 
subjects shall hail thy resumption of life and empire with 
unanimous acclamations : thy children shall again bless 


thine eyes, the wife of thy youth shall again adorn thy 
court, and lighten the cares of thy heart : thou shall live 
and reign, in health and tranquillity, and honour, for a 
thousand years : but know, that the voice of the gospel 
shall never more be addressed to thee: the precious pro- 
mises of the gracious covenant thou hast neglected are 
sealed up for ever : thy barren soul shall never be watered 
nor refreshed with the dew of heaven's grace : the Mediator 
who pleaded for thee during the years of thy probation 
will intercede no more : the Holy Spirit will never renew 
thee to repentance, nor offer thee salvation : the world is 
thine again for a thousand years, but, at the end of that 
period thou shalt return hither — this horrible pit shall 
thenceforward be thy prison for ever and ever." 

Now he has something in his hand. He is at once 
placed in a new and singular situation, which is sufficient 
to develop instantaneously all the inmost depths of his 
miserable spirit. At the first sounds of this message, 
"Thou art at liberty," how would the stranger, Hope, 
lighten in his eye ! In the first prospect of deliverance he 
would even forget his present torments. As he heard 
further of his restored kingdom, his children, his queen, 
and the long lease of those interesting possessions, departed 
joys would return with an exquisite thrill to his desolate 
bosom : his new hope would mount up to ecstacy, and the 
transport in his countenance would astonish his com- 
panions in misery, the ghosts of hell. But, when the 
angel, proceeding to complete his strange errand, should 
say, " the voice of the gospel shall never more be addressed 
to thee : how would his countenance fall ! And while the 
sentence of his condemnation was further and more 
circumstantially confirmed, till he heard that, at last, the 
horrible pit should be his prison for ever and ever, how 
would his ghastly features resume the rigid aspect of 
despair! When the heavenly voice ceased in his ear — 


would he be at a loss for a reply ? would lie be in haste to 
return to earth and royalty? would he pause, and muse, 
and ask questions ? would lie request time for deliberation? 
nay, rather, would not despair, the sense of a great crisis 
make him eloquent? would he not cry in an agony of 
prayer, " Perish millions of worlds, but give me Christ ! I 
have tasted of damnation, I have been crushed under the 
wrath of the Almighty ! give me one day of renewed 
probation, rather than ten thousand years of empire ! O 
let trial be made, once more, whether I will neglect my 
Saviour, and despise the riches of his grace I Christ 
hear me, and save me ! Deliver me for ever from this, 
tormenting flame I" 

Does your heart, reader, agree to his new sentiments, 
and feel the propriety of his prayer ? Only act according 
to those sentiments, and seek your salvation with the 
earnestness of that prayer, and without having this man's 
singular course, or his miserable end, you may have the 
full benefit of his whole experience. Putting your soul in 
his soul's stead would you not say — " Perish millions of 
worlds, but give me Christ ! " Then, I ask, what are you ? 
how are you living ? and how do you intend to live ? 

Are you a man of the world ? What then is your world 
worth, and what can you make of it ? Put it in the 
balances — take it at its largest sum, in your most pros- 
perous and joyous years — heap it with your most valued 
connexions — add also your most doubtful and disputable 
possessions, as if they were insured — pour in your most 
extravagant hopes as a makeweight — now, try to lift the 
balance : — there is the weight of eternal ruin in the other 
scale, and your world vaults aloft in the air, and is lighter 
than vanity. 

You know that you can never gain the whole world ; it 
is an impossible case, assumed for the purpose of illustra- 
tion. When you have made the most of your time, talents. 

The worth of the soul. 73 

friends, opportunities, and all other means, in improving 
your state as a man of the world, you will come at last to 
Solomon's discovery — " That which is crooked cannot be 
made straight, and that which is wanting cannot be num- 
bered." Man cannot find happiness where God has not 
placed it. You will find that man in his best earthly state 
is altogether vanity, and that the world will obstinately 
continue to be a scene of uncertainty, vicissitude, disap- 
pointment and affliction. 

Your heart and conscience have assented to the conclu- 
sion that ten thousand years' possession of universal empire 
would be wisely and cheaply sacrificed for the sake of 
deliverance from everlasting punishment ; and will you for 
the sake of this day's unquiet, and unsafe, and unholy 
enjoyment of your little world, put your eternal salvation 
to hazard till that to-morrow which you may never see ? A 
little more perseverance in sin may perhaps consign you to 
more misery than we have contemplated ; and cause you to 
know, by bitter experience of the fact, that nothing can 
then be given in exchange for the soul. 

Do you say, " I dare not any longer persevere as a 
sinner. Is there any thing I can now give in exchange for 
my soul?" All you have must be surrendered as the 
Lord's : yet all you have would be like the small dust of 
the balance towards the redemption of your soul which is 
precious. But in this hopeless extremity, God says, Deliver 
him from going down to the pit : I have found a ransom. 
The ransom is Jesus Christ; who has purchased us with 
his own blood : and He says, Him that cometh to me I will 
in no wise cast out : and Come unto me all ye that labour and 
are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 

God has answered the question, What shall a man give 
in exchange for his soul 1 by putting the precious ransom 
into your hand. Hence St. Paul, referring to a passage in 
Deuteronomy, says, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend 


into heaven ? (thafis to bring Christ down from above ;) or, 
Who shall descend into the deep ? (that is to bring up Christ 
again from the dead. (But what saith it t namely the 
righteousness which is of faith.) The word is nigh thee, 
even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of 
faith, which we preach ; that if thou shalt confess with thy 
mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God 
hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. — For the 
Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth in Him shall not be 

What do you resolve to do ? The world is before you, 
not to enjoy as you please, but probably to endure as you 
can. Christ is before you, to be received or rejected. 
Eternity is before you, for you to choose your portion. Life 
is given you by a moment at once, and will soon terminate. 
Now is the seed-time of eternity : — therefore sow as you 
would hereafter reap : and, what you do, do it quickly, for 
the Lord is at hand. 

Do you say, " Do not be in such pressing haste with us. 
We do indeed love the world, and hope to enjoy it some- 
time longer; but, — we have no inclination to lose our 
souls ; and, though not just now, we will certainly, some- 
time soon, begin to think about our salvation ? '' Who 
prompts you to make this reply to the expostulations of 
divine mercy ? It is some inveterate enemy of your peace, 
some agent of the prince of darkness, some evil spirit at 
your right hand, who whispers, " A little more slumber, a 
little more pleasure, a little longer delay." Will you listen 
to his flattery, will you gratify his malice ? And, who are 
you who say, " We will certainly, sometime soon, begin to 
think of our salvation ?" Children of the dust ! — The 
wood is probably felled, and laid up in store, of which your 
coffins will be made ; and the stone ready hewn that will 
tell the passenger how young you died. 

Are you sure of your sincerity when you say, " I will 


repent at such a time — next year for instance ? How often 
have you promised before ? 

Think you God ought to be pacified with fair words and 
promises ? What then is the meaning of these promises, 
that are to make truce with him ? Their meaning belongs 
to the Devil, their phrase only to your Saviour. The true 
sense of such promises is, " God — I will not serve thee at 
present. Neither thy mercy nor thy terrors shall prevail 
with me to submit till such a time ! " Will you deceive 
yourselves with such promises ? Will you thus provoke 
God ? Rather say, this moment, " Lord what wouldest 
thou have me to do ?" and plead with him, in fervent, 
importunate prayer, by the ransom he has found for your 


" Escape for thy life : look not behind thee ; neither stay thou in all the 
plain ; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed." — Genesis xix. 17. 

These earnest words were addressed to Lot, with his wife 
and daughter, immediately after they had been led out of 
the gates of Sodom ; and a short time before the rain of 
fire came down upon the cities of the plain. The words of 
this brief warning to the departing family, bring vividly 
before us their strange and awful situation. Destruction 
itself was waiting their departure. Dangers and evils, 
unspeakably great and terrible, hung behind them, ready 
to fall ; a safe refuge was pointed out ; and with a merciful 
authority, their lingering steps were quickened by these 
words of command to the head of the family. " Escape 
iof thy life : look not behind thee ; neither stay thou in 
all the plain ; escape to the mountain, lest thou be con- 

With many serious readers of the Scriptures — Lot 
departing from Sodom, naturally leads their thoughts to 
the case of a penitent sinner renouncing the corruptions 
and vanities of the world, separating himself from its 
abominations, and seeking a refuge from the wrath with 
which eternal justice threatens the impenitent and 

It may be useful to apply to the case of penitents and 
believers in this evil world, the suitable counsel and warn- 
ing which are suggested by this charge to Lot and his 
family. The exhortation in the text is as fitting to the 
general circumstances of a few god-fearing persons, any 
where, in any times, among ungodly neighbours, as it was 
nearly 4,000 years ago to the Hebrew patriarch. The guilt 

LOT. 77 

and wrath, to which the text alludes, belong as much to 
its meaning as the words do. It is proposed 

I. So far to consider the case of the doomed region 
and people, from which Lot was commanded away, as may 
prepare us — 

II. To ponder and apply the charge which was given 
to Lot at the gate of Sodom. 

I. So far to consider the case, etc. 
The history of Sodom, as far as it is known, begins and 
ends with Lot. The place is first mentioned in stating the 
fact and the occasion of his going thither : and the day of 
his departure was the last day of Sodom. 

1. The occasion of Lot's going to Sodom — Strife between 
the herdsmen of Abraham and Lot. Genesis xiii. 

The cattle of the two prosperous families were too 
numerous for the grass and water of the country. 

Abraham's conduct — wise, forbearing, generous, — a pat- 
tern to all who would preserve peace or restore it. Peace 
is not to be had by claiming the extreme of personal 

The country to be divided was Canaan in general. — The 
vale of Siddim was a part of it. 

The character of the country — The Plain of Jordan — 
well watered everywhere, as the garden of the Lord — as 
the land of Egypt. 

The character of the people. Wicked and sinners before 
the Lord exceedingly " A hideous assemblage of depraved 
beings, such as might have been vomited forth from the 
bottomless pit, to descend again in an earthquake and 
tempest of fire." 

2. Lot's choice. — Lot, one of the weakest of good men, 
— chose Sodom. He should have referred the case back to 
his generous uncle, and, at least, have asked his counsel. 
But lie coveted the rich, well -watered pastures, and too 
eagerly grasped the opportunity 

78 LOT. 

3. Lot's captivity. He had early proof how dear rich 
pastures might be amongst a wicked people. After he had 
been a few years at Sodom, he was taken captive by the 
king of Elam and his confederates, and nobly rescued by 
Abraham ; who acted with equal kindness, judgment 
and energy, in the attack and the pursuit; and with a 
magnanimous prudence on his return : declining any 
recompenses from the wicked. 

4. Lot's continuance in Sodom. After such an escape, 
Lot still dragged on about fifteen years longer in that 
wicked country : exposing his family to bad examples and 
connexions, and himself to daily vexations. 

The example and influence of one weak, good man 
and his indifferent family, had little or no effect on the 
neighbours of Lot. His daily life was a testimony 
against them ; but his residence in Sodom costs all parties 

5. When Lot had been about twenty years in Sodom, 
tl^e iniquity of the people was almost full ; and whatever 
was wanting in the measure of their iniquities, they were 
making haste to fill up. Twenty years before they " were 
wicked, and sinners before the Lord exceedingly ;" but 
after being delivered by one righteous man, and witnessing 
the daily life of another, they did not repent ; but grew 
worse and worse. 

6. But the first tokens of Divine interference with 
their daring impiety, were of a very quiet description — 
no alarming portents, no prodigies, — no voices nor thunders 
from above or below. 

A visit to Abraham, from God in the form of a man. 
Three strangers — travellers, as they seemed, drew near, as 
Abraham sat in the door of his tent, in the heat of the 
day. Looking up, he suddenly perceived their presence, — 
not having observed their distant approach. He offered 
and they accepted hospitality. 

LOT. 79 

It soon appeared that they knew more of him than he 
did of them. One of the strangers said — " Where is Sarah 
thy wife ?" etc. 

After refreshment and conversation they continued their 
journey in the direction of Sodom — Abraham courteously 
setting them forward on their way. The one who had 
spoken to Sarah, now condescendingly told Abraham the 
substance of their errand to Sodom. Abraham detained 
that one, — whom he now recognised as the Lord ; while 
the other two went on towards Sodom. 

Abraham interceded — not for Lot : as to him he con- 
fided, without enquiry or stipulation, in the righteous Lord, 
who loveth righteousness, — but for Sodom, — assuming fifty, 
forty-five, thirty, twenty, ten righteous might be found 
there ; and returned to his place ; satisfied that the judge 
of all the earth would do right. The Spirit " that malceth 
intercession," did not lead him to plead for a less number 
than ten. 

It was afternoon when Abraham left the presence of the 
Lord, — the sun was warm upon Sodom — the Jordan ran 
by — all the scenery serene and beautiful — and the inhabi- 
tants secure and audacious as they were wont to be. 

Little did they think what a conversation they had been 
the subjects of. Had they known, they would perhaps 
have disdained the pleader and his pleading. Little did 
they imagine what had been agreed between their neigh- 
bour Abraham and the most high God, "the possessor of 
heaven and earth " — that they two had parted with this 
clear understanding between them — that the preservation 
or destruction of Sodom should depend on — whether ten 
persons like Lot could be found there. Had ten such been 
there — the city, and the region, and the wicked thousands 
would have been spared for their sakes. And if there had 
been ten, and if Sodom had consequently been spared — 
while the guilty multitude would have been indebted to 

80 LOT. 

them for their lives, their country, and their all — how would 
they have requited them ? They would not have believed 
that the few good men were so precious, and so powerful, 
as to be their preservers. They would not have believed 
their own actual danger, or their escape through such 
influences. They would have owed their lives and their 
all to the ten ; but they would have denied the debt. The 
ten would have been as the one was — barely tolerated, 
hardly endured, — wronged, and scorned, and threatened ; — 
perhaps eventually driven away or martyred. 

But there was but one instead of ten. The doom of the 
wicked people was settled, and its execution impending, 
for want of a few like Lot, to stay or avert it, and they 
knew it not. 

The same evening, the earth and the heavens being still 
quiet, two men, in appearance, the same two who went on 
while the Lord talked with Abraham, came to Sodom. 
The noon had been hot, when Abraham sat in the door of 
his tent, the evening was probably bright and calm. The 
last sunset of the place and of the people was shining on 
the dwellings, the trees, the green fields, and the plenteous 
waters of that delightful plain : Lot was sitting in the gate 
of Sodom, probably on purpose to prevent any respectable 
travellers from falling into the hands of such foul and vile 
barbarians as he knew the people to be. He saw the 
strangers approach, respectfully invited them, pressed his 
invitation, overcame their apparent reluctance, and brought 
them into his dwelling. When the seeming travellers, but 
disguised angels, entered, neither Lot, nor any in Sodom, 
knew what they were, or whence they came, or why they 
came. Hitherto, all was quiet, but the treasured wrath 
was about to be poured forth. 

7. An outrage of this horde of criminals, hastened the 
proceedings of lingering justice. The coming of the 
strangers had not been unseen, nor unnoticed, by the 

LOT. 81 

brutally depraved inhabitants. Old and young from every 
quarter, before the usual hour of retiring for rest, compassed 
the house round about, avowing purposes of the vilest 

In the ordinary practice of righteousness, Lot entertained 
angels unawares ; his neighbours, in their usual course of 
wickedness, unawares encountered and provoked these 
mighty celestial spirits. 

When sinners are almost ripe for destruction, they are 
generally so hardened and infatuated, that if but one drop 
more be wanting to make the waters of bitterness overflow, 
they are not afraid, but eager, to add that one drop more. 
There is something awfully characteristic about the last 
provocation, that precedes divine vengeance and brings it 
down ; that bursts through into eternity, with all the sins 
of the whole life following after, to the blackness, and 
darkness, and tempest of the horrible pit. 

8. When his bad neighbours pressed upon him, Lot was 
intimidated and confused. There was nothing in him of 
the sagacious intrepidity which Abraham had exerted for 
his rescue. He made a proposal which he had no right to 
make — to give up to them his two daughters. He was 
disposed by true honour to protect his guests to the utter- 
most, and by false honour to set the ties of hospitality 
above those of paternal duty. Of two sins we must choose 
neither, but leave such extremities to God. 

Lot's strange proposal was rejected with scorn : but the 
difficulty was to be disposed of in another manner. The 
unknown guests of Lot pulled him in to them, within the 
door ; and smote the vile crowd with blindness : yet the 
blinded and bewildered mob, old and young, wearied them- 
selves to find the door. The young being with the old, on 
such an occasion, shews the fearful efficacy of wicked 

9. Again there was safety and quiet within Lot's dwell- 


82 LOT. 

ing, but nob repose. The guests who had exerted such 
mysterious power, liad entered Lotfs house, not to enjoy 
the proffered rest, but to execute a divine sentence. 

They commanded their astonished host to go to any 
members of his family, who might be in the city, and to 
bring them out, with all that he had in the place. They 
gave him the reason of their command, that God had sent 
them to destroy that whole fruitful region, as the event 
shews ; to make the countrv a monument of wrath to the 
end of time; to cause the very soil, that had been the 
scene of such pollutions, to disappear from under the 

10. Lot went out under the cover of night. But to bis 
sons-in-law — what a misery to have sons-in-law in Sodom 
— he seemed as one who either jested or raved. He doubt- 
less lingered with them, as he lingered afterwards at home ; 
pleading with them, and with his daughters ; but he 
returned, sad and alone, as morning appeared, to the 
waiting angels. 

11. He lingered after his return, and was mercifully 
hastened. Trie two angels, with gentle constraint, led the 
four persons ; here was visible Providence. And when 
they had brought them to the outside of Sodom, one of the 
angels said, " Escape for thy life ; look not behind thee ; 
neither stay thou in all the plain, escape to the mountain, 
lest thou be consumed." 

Lot, rather presumptuously, pleaded for Zoar ; as being 
little, and nearer than the mountain. The angel, making a 
difference between him and Abraham, granted his request 
without discussion, as one in haste; and repeated the 
peremptory injunction to be gone. 

12. It was now early twilight. "The last moments of 
the inhabitants of four populous cities, were measuring out 
by the steps of the four fugitives across the plain. The 
angels remained to see how a guilty and infatuated race 

LOT. 83 

began their last morning, and to wait the moment of Lot's 
entrance into Zoar. 

13. As Lot, with trembling steps, held on his way to 
Zoar, how would thought chase thought in his hurried and 
bewildered mind. A few hours before it was evening ; he 
was sitting in the gate of Sodom ; two seeming travellers 
became his guests ; an outrage was threatened, and then — 
they were angels. He was sent by them to warn his 
relatives. His sons-in-law were incredulous and heedless ; 
his daughters remained with their husbands ; he was com- 
manded away : destruction was waiting for him to get out 
of its range. He dared not look back. He must not take 
one hurried glance at the dwelling he had occupied about 
twenty years, at the city where his married daughters were 
left, at the scenes he must never behold again. 

14. Lot did not look back ; he persevered to the gates of 
Zoar. There he found his wife missing. Then probably 
he saw her a stiffened monument on the road from Sodom. 
The relatives of good men should take care to go all the 
way with them to heaven. Lot's wife may have been 
almost safe when she looked back and perished. 

1 5. The angels waited for Lot's arrival : that was their 
signal. The sun was just rising when Lot entered into 
Zoar. " Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah 
brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven ; and he 
overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the 
inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the 

There was no voice or sentiment of penitence in Sodom, 
and justice had its awful course, in the tempest of fire. 
How did the daring wretches meet it? There was only 
time for astonishment, despair and death. 

16. Abraham, from a distance, rising early, saw the smote 
of the country; and thus learnt that there were not ten 
righteous found in Sodom. What comprehensive intelli- 

84 LOT. 

gence in that glance! Thus "the secret of the Lord is 
with them that feaft- him." 

17. After all there are worse sinners than the men of 
Sodom. If we neglect the Gospel, and its great salvation 
it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the 
day of judgment. 

Eetnrning now to the text selected from this awful 
history, let us 

II. Ponder and apply the charge given to Lot at the 
gate of Sodom. 

We may profitably consider — the danger implied, the 
refuge pointed out, the immediate escape enjoined. 

1. The danger — great, pressing, extensive, dreadful. 
Great — Life at stake — Escape for thy life. More than life 

Pressing — close behind — requiring immediate flight, as 
from a pursuing wild beast — no time to look back. 

Extensive — all the plain involved — not only drunkards, 
thieves, murderers, are threatened, but decent, respectable 
sinners — all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men : — 
not slight removes from the tents of wickedness ; but 
salvation from all sin is necessary. 

Dreadful and fatal — Lest thou be consumed. 

In the event of our neglecting to escape — destruction; 
intolerable, boundless, endless. To sit still is sufficient to 
make our ruin sure. 

2. The Befuge pointed out — is near, accessible, sufficient, 

Near. " The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and 
in thy heart : that is, the word of faith which we preach ; 
that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, 
and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him 
from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart 
man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth 
confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, 
Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." 

LOT. 85 

Lot thought the mountain too distant. Perhaps fear 
had weakened both his body and his mind. 

Accessible — as Zoar, and more so. His salvation is 
nigh them that fear him. " Come unto me all ye that 
labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." 

Sufficient. " He shall dwell on high ; his place of 
defence shall be the munitions of rocks : bread shall be 
given him ; his waters shall be sure." 

Unassailable — as the last quotation shews — on high — 
above the range of the enemy's artillery — munitions of 
rocks, not to be undermined or taken by storm. Bread 
given — waters sure — "My God shall supply all your 

3. The immediate escape enjoined. 

Quit Sodom. Renounce the devil, the world, and the 
flesh. Lot had to quit or perish. 

He might have been as safe among his wicked neigh- 
bours, as we can be, in taking our portion with men of the 

Quit all. Count all worthy to be lost for Christ, that in 
any way hinders from being safe with him. Lot had to 
leave goods and connexions. It is not likely that he had 
time to collect and take away all that belonged to him. 

Make haste. Lot had to make more haste than he was 
inclined to. Those who escape for their lives, cannot stay 
for trifles, nor bargain for conveniences and indulgences. 

Xever look back. Lot did not. His wife did. Our 
Lord bids us remember lier. 

Lot did wrong in going to Sodom, in remaining there 
after his rescue, in begging for Zoar, (he should have relied 
implicitly on the word that directed him to the mountain), 
in not watching sufficiently afterwards. 

Let us never seek rich pastures, or any equivalent, at 
the price of dwelling as in Sodom — let us never risk our 
soul for things that perish in the using. 

8$ LOT. 

Let ns follow divine directions with implicit confidence 
and simple submission. 

Let us cheerfully and completely abandon whatever 
endangers our salvation. 

Let us abide in Christ, watching unto prayer. 

God hates sin as much as when Sodom was burning. 

He is as just as when Abraham said — "Shall not the 
judge of all the earth do right?" 

He is as merciful to the humble and sincere as when 
he hastened and delivered, bewildered and trembling Lot 


*' Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by Him 
and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man 
with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren. And he wept 
aloud : and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard. And Joseph said 
unto his brethren, I [am] Joseph ; doth my father yet live ? And his brethren 
could not answer him ; for they were troubled at bis presence." — Genesis xlv. 

The scripture history of Joseph is so full of simple beauty ; 
so richly replete with the most natural, moving and won- 
derful scenes and events; and has given so much pure 
delight to all attentive readers of the Bible ; that it is 
scarcely possible to select any part of it for the purposes of 
instruction, without some risk of disappointing expectation. 
Those who have read the ancient narrative in Genesis with 
transport, are not unlikely to feel languor or indifference in 
viewing the same subject through the medium of a sermon. 

But many persons, either through the difficulties and 
anxieties of their temporal condition, or for want of incli- 
nation, never exert the power, much less acquire the habit, 
of reading with active and sustained attention. Even when 
they receive high pleasure from the perusal of a pathetic 
and surprising history, their faculties are still in a passive 
state : — acted upon and excited by the more obvious, 
touching, or remarkable parts of the animated picture 
spread out before their mind's eye ; — but merely receiving 
and enjoying what is most plainly and prominently set 
before them ; and not attempting that close observation of 
the various parts in succession, without which many minute 
and implied circumstances will be unmasked or slightly 
noticed, and the whole dimly apprehended and vaguely 

To such readers, many things which they have formerly 


read with haste and indifference, and which in their method 
of reading appeared dull and uninteresting, stand forth in 
a new and striking manner when distinctly presented to 
their apprehension. Tor the sake of such readers, persons 
of superior intelligence will tolerate an occasional review 
of subjects whose novelty they have exhausted ; and for the 
same reason they will also excuse a fulness of statement 
which for their instruction would be superfluous. Some 
perhaps who, when the text is first set before them, are 
ready to think, " Why, we know all about Joseph and his 
brethren," may be made to perceive that various small 
portions of the subject had escaped their notice, and per- 
sons who are familiar with all the parts of the story, may 
find valuable instruction lying near the surface, which they 
had not before stooped to discover. 

To those at least, who are not patient in meditating on 
the small incidents and implied parts, on which a right 
notion of greater things often depends, some assistance may 
beMiseful in investigating this remarkable period in the life 
of Joseph. 

The texts records the affecting termination of the politic 
mystery of Joseph's behaviour to his brethren. It pre- 
supposes the previous concealment, and describes the 
sudden discovery of his relation to the ten Patriarchs. In 
order to a clear view of this subject, it may be expedient 
to consider 

I. The mystery of Joseph's behaviour to his brethren ; 

II. The termination of that mystery ; 

III. The instruction herein furnished by example or 

We are first to consider the mystery of Joseph's beha- 
viour to his brethren. 

The following expressions in the text, " There Joseph 
could not refrain himself" and " there stood no man with 
him while Joseph made himself known to his brethren" — are 


those which presuppose a previous concealment. At the 
time here spoken of, the perplexity of the brethren was 
extreme ; — to understand the past, — to unravel the present, 
— and to provide for the future they found alike imprac- 

The famine had continued scarcely two years when the 
ten brethren were first introduced to Joseph, as foreigners, 
who desired permission to purchase corn from the public 
stores of Egypt ; yet some circumstances render it likely 
that the wealth which Jacob possessed at the time of his 
meeting Esau, had been greatly diminished ; partly by the 
regular maintenance of twelve families, and partly by the 
extraordinary expense of purchasing corn at a famine price 
for so many households in time of famine. Jacob return- 
ing from Laban, said to Esau, by his messengers, " I have 
oxen, and asses, flocks, and men-servants and women- 
servants." If he had still possessed numerous men- 
servants, some of them would probably have been sent into 
Egypt, with a smaller number of the brethren. And if he 
still had camels, as when he gave at least sixty to Esau, 
they would have been more suitable than asses for the 
journey to Egypt, and for the conveyance of corn. 

It seems probable that the gradual approach and actual 
presence of poverty and distress, had wrought with time 
and reflection, to humble and soften the ten brethren. 
Their first appearance before Joseph was that of men taught 
and tamed by adversity. They had felt that alarming pre- 
cariousness of their means of living, which w r as so naturally 
expressed by their father, when he said, " Why do ye look 
one upon another ? Behold I have heard that there is corn 
in Egypt ; get you down thither, and buy for us from thence ; 
that v;c may live and not die." When brought into the 
presence of Joseph, " they bowed doiun themselves before him, 
with their faces to the earth. They knew not the governor 
before whom they prostrated themselves ; but he was in 


power, and they were in need : and though they came to 
buy corn and not to beg it, they felt that the permission to 
buy was a great favour ; and were therefore disposed to 
shew all respect and humility before one who had power 
to deny that favour. 

From that time commenced that mysterious behaviour 
of Joseph towards them, which kept them in anxiety and 
perplexity till the moment when he made himself known. 

The power to deal thus with them arose, chiefly, from 
the circumstance that "Joseph knew his brethren, but they 
knew not him :" he had prudent motives for remaining un- 
known, he had honest and important ends to attain : he 
suited his means to the character of the men and to the 
ends he sought : and he watched the working of his machi- 
nery with penetrating discernment and with strong fraternal 

1. It was just now remarked that the power to render 
his intercourse with them mysterious and perplexing, arose 
chiefly from his knowing his brethren while they knew not 
him. He appears to have been brought to Egypt in his 
eighteenth year. After that event, twenty-one years at the 
least had passed, in which there was no communication 
between Joseph and the rest of the family If the art of 
writing was not then in use, the difficulty of such inter- 
course would be very great. He who was but a boy when 
they sold him, was become a mature man, of the age of 
thirty-eight years. He had endured thirteen years of 
slavery, part of them being spent in prison. He had en- 
joyed eight years of power and command over a rich and 
civilized nation. Twenty-one years of city-life, combined 
with his long formed habits of self-restraint and discreet 
authority, would sufficiently account for and naturally tend 
to effect a greater change in Joseph's countenance and 
demeanour, than would be produced, within the same time, 
in the personal appearance of his brethren. The first four 


elder of the ten brethren were men when Joseph had last 
seen them; and having continued in the same condition, 
occupation, and manner of life, would be much less changed 
than himself. He had also the advantage of seeing the ten 
together ; of observing their family likeness to his Father ; 
and to the three mothers, who bore them ; of seeing in each 
one the same personal peculiarities of manner that might 
formerly distinguish him ; and of hearing their well- 
remembered voices speak the family dialect. But not only 
was he disguised to their view by great changes in his 
appearance; but their natural supposition that he must 
have sunk into the grave under the sore hardships of 
slavery, precluded all anticipation of meeting with him in 
any station. He heard them speak of himself as dead. 
Nothing was further from their thoughts than their finding 
him in robes of dignity, and with a chain of gold about 
his neck, as the governor of Egypt. His precaution in 
using the dialect he had learned in Egypt and speaking 
to them through an interpreter; as well as the assumed 
harshness of his tone and manner, still further lessened 
the chances of their being reminded of the mild youth 
of seventeen. The voice of Joseph was probably more 
changed than the voices of the elder brethren ; and they 
had never before heard him mentioned by his Egyptian 
name, or by his title of office ; and that his Hebrew name 
was not pronounced in their hearing. 

Perceiving that he was unknown, Joseph wisely deter- 
mined to remain so, and to avail himself of all opportunity 
of observation, till it should become just and prudent to 
discover himself; intending in the mean time to treat his 
brethren in such a manner as would facilitate the judicious 
and benevolent purposes he had formed concerning them. 

2. A brief survey of Joseph's situation will show that 
he had prudent motives for continuing sometime undis- 
cove red. 


The last time he had seen these ten brethren, and heard 
their voices, — twenty-one years before they bowed down to 
him in Egypt as distressed and suppliant strangers, — was 
when, actuated by wicked passions, some were pale and 
trembling with rage, some brutally exulting, some coldly 
stern, and all except Eeuben, implacable : — it was when 
" they saw the anguish of his soul when he besought them, and 
they would not hear :" — it was when, after threatening his 
life with naked weapons, they doomed him to die of hunger 
in a deep pit, and at last transferred their brother as 
merchandise to the Midianites, — coolly receiving the sordid 
silver, while they glutted their hatred with the long pros- 
pect of his servile hardships, and his final separation from 
paternal indulgence, and with the anticipation that heart- 
breaking bondage would prove a mortal hindrance to the 
fulfilment of his dreams. His last recollections of their 
persons were connected with a scene of terror and agony, 
and with the beginning of thirteen years of slavery. He 
had endured a long series of severe calamities as the fruit 
of their envious and unscrupulous enmity. He had no 
immediate means of knowing their present mind. But 
well might he ask himself if his dreams provoked their 
deadly hatred, how would they bear the fulfilment ? 

He had reason to know that some of them were men of 
great capacity and formidable energy. He could hardly 
be ignorant of the ready talents of Judah : and, by a 
terrible instance, Simeon and Levi had shewn themselves 
capable of subtle contrivance and daring execution. Com- 
mon prudence therefore required that he should retain his 
advantage in being unknovm, till he could ascertain with 
what degree of safety he might be made known. It would 
have been rash to have trusted such men with the secret of 
his name, and his relation to themselves, that he was Joseph 
their brother, while, for aught he knew, they might retain 
the remorseless hatred which he had found so unrelenting 
at the field of Dothan. 


3. In addition to motives of precaution he had motives 
of judicious benevolence. He had wise, kind, and im- 
portant ends in view; and it was as necessary for the 
attainment of these, as for his own safety, that he should 
remain some time unknown. It was reasonable and natural 
that he should desire to know, not only what effect the 
discovery of himself would be likely to have on their 
feelings towards him, but what general change time had 
made in their principles and dispositions, — whether they 
were as envious and malignant as formerly, — how they 
would behave to each other in trouble, — and especially how 
they felt towards his father and Benjamin, and what steps 
might be needful on their behalf, in case he found the ten 
brethren undutiful and unkind towards them. Previous to 
experiment, it was probable that in twenty-one years his 
brethren had become either better or worse ; either more 
selfish and unfeeling, or more mild and generous. It deeply 
concerned him to know which of these changes time had 
made. Had he prematurely discovered himself, he would 
have finally lost the opportunity of seeing their real 
character. He could not fail to be aware that as soon as 
he put off disguise, they would put it on, — that shame and 
fear, and hope and ambition, would dispose them to put on, 
before an injured brother, discovered in so high a station, 
artful appearances, which they had no motive to assume 
before the unknown minister of Pharaoh. 

4. Joseph suited his means to the former character of 
the men, and to the ends he sought. The stern authority 
and suspicious harshness he assumed in his first interview, 
and the policy of employing an interpreter, were an effec- 
tual mask to keep himself concealed. When he said, " Ye 
spies, — to see the nakedness of the land are ye come" — there 
was nothing to remind them of the gentle, beardless youth, 
who, twenty-one years before had besought them in the 
anguish of his soul. — By confining them in prison for three 


days, he inflicted a very light chastisement for their offences 
against himself. He tried the effect of three days bondage, 
on those who had caused him thirteen years of slavery, and 
more than two years of imprisonment. Of these free and 
bold spirits it might have been said, as of the wild ass 
described in Job, — " He scorneth the multitude of the city, . 
neither regardeth he the crying of the driver, the range of 
the mountains in his pasture." But they were now made to 
taste a little of the bitterness of lost liberty ; a little of the 
distress of having life and freedom in suspense, subject to 
the pleasure of one whose power they could not resist. 
They were supplied with a painful stimulus to reflection 
on their own injustice and cruelty. Joseph knew by 
experience the secrets of the prison house, and the tendency 
of confinement to promote reflection. To imprison them 
was his first expedient, resolved upon during their first 
interview ; — it was a proceeding which he could alter at 
pleasure ; and it allowed him time to deliberate with him- 
self concerning the use to be made of the opportunity 
which Providence had placed in his hands, and the plans 
to be pursued in his further dealings with them. 

"When he ordered them to prison, he proposed that one 
of them should be sent to fetch Benjamin ; and that the 
rest should be kept in prison till his arrival. To this it 
appears they made no reply; they neither accepted nor 
rejected it. They were doubtless too much surprised and 
perplexed to concert any answer; they did not wish to 
provoke this powerful stranger by a direct refusal ; and all 
of them were sensible of the difficulty of inducing their 
father to let Benjamin join them in such perilous uncer- 

On the third day he intimated to them by the inter- 
preter, that he had too much of the fear of God to act 
unjustly towards them ; and offered a milder proposal, — 
that one of them should remain in prison as a hostage, 


a pledge of their return, and that their lives should be 
spared, and their sacks filled with corn, on condition that 
they brought Benjamin the next time. To this proposal 
they do not appear to have made a direct reply ; but while 
such a stranger as he seemed to be, might have supposed 
they were conferring about their answer, they were con- 
strained by remorse to ascribe their trouble to the retribu- 
tive Providence of that God whose fear this mighty one 
mentioned with reverence. Under this impression they 
said one to another, " We were verily guilty concerning our 
brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he 
besought us, and we would not hear : therefore is this distress 
come upon us. n And Eeuben answered them, saying, 
" Spake I not unto you, saying, do not sin against the child ; 
and ye would not hear ? therefore, behold, also his blood is 
required." Perhaps Joseph's reference to the fear of God 
quickened the march of their reflections; and together 
with the necessity of consultation, drew them more readily 
to mutual confession. While the perplexity into which 
this proposal threw them drew forth their expressions of 
remorse, the proposal itself was beyond their expressions 
to refuse ; and it insured both their return and the coming 
of Benjamin. 

The money returned in their sacks increased their 
perplexity, though perhaps intended chiefly as an anony- 
mous gift. It made them feel as though they had been in 
a land of enchantment. It was not of a piece with the 
other treatment they had received. The returning of the 
money in all the ten sacks alike was too methodical to be 
deemed an accident. And, as an instance of secret design, 
they could not account for it, except on the supposition 
that a pretence was sought to injure them. 

The repeated proposals relative to their bringing Benja- 
min, afforded opportunities for observing how they spoke 
and felt respecting him and their father; and whether 


they resented Jacob's partiality for Benjamin, as they 
formerly did his fondness for Joseph. 

In having the eleven brethren to dine with him at their 
second visit, Joseph gratified his brotherly affections while 
he pursued his generous policy. On this occasion he 
assumed the milder demeanour of one whose doubts were 
removed by the coming of their youngest brother, and who 
was now satisfied and friendly. He surprised them by 
placing them at his table according to their several ages ; 
and no doubt greatly enjoyed the remarks which he over- 
heard, and the expressive looks which he saw, as effects of 
their wonder. He thus kept up a degree of mystery ; but 
in other respects encouraged them to be at ease. With 
design also, when he sent portions to his guests, he sent 
five times as much for Benjamin's mess as for any of theirs. 
He would see by their notice of this circumstance, whether 
it displeased them. He could not expect Benjamin to eat 
more than the rest, but he wished to see how they would 
Jook upon the preference thus shewn to Benjamin, to 
ascertain whether he was regarded with protecting kind- 
ness, or with such envious feelings as had made himself 
the victim of their jealousy. At this interview he so far 
laid aside the embarassing sternness of his former dealings 
with them, that "they drank, and were merry with him :" 
their spirits were elevated by good cheer, and kind treat- 
ment ; and they conversed among themselves with cheerful 

Joseph probably saw enough when his brethren dined 
with him, to satisfy him that they had no active, jealous 
dislike against Benjamin ; but he was desirous to ascertain 
by further trial whether there was any active, generous 
kindness towards him. By the stratagem of causing the 
silver cup to be found in Benjamin's sack, Joseph severely 
tested his brethren's affection for Benjamin, and laid them 
under a necessity of shewing by actions whether they 


would warmly defend or coldly abandon the favourite son 
of their father. Benjamin had succeeded to that place in 
Jacob's partial fondness which Joseph formerly possessed. 
Each of the brethren knew that Benjamin was preferred to 
him by their father. Had they on this account hated 
Benjamin as they formerly hated Joseph, and felt no more 
dutiful regard to their aged father's feelings than they did 
twenty-one years before, Joseph would have seen them 
leave Benjamin in slavery with as little compunction as 
they showed in selling himself to the Ishmaelites for 
twenty pieces of silver. 

5. While watching the effect of his various contrivances 
and experiments to try the spirit of his brethren, Joseph's 
penetrating sagacity was tempered with steady kindness 
of purpose, and with emotions of yearning tenderness, to 
control which required all his self-command. 

When he heard their mutual confessions and reproaches 
relative to their guilt concerning himself, " he turned him- 
self about from them, and wept, and returned to them 
again, and communed with them." When he saw Benja- 
min among them, " he made haste " to shorten the conversa- 
tion, " for his bowels did yearn upon his brother ; and he 
sought where to weep : and he entered into his chamber, 
and wept there. "And he washed his face" (to remove 
the marks of weeping), " and went out, and refrained 
himself." And when Judah concluded his generous and 
pathetic speech in behalf of Benjamin, " Joseph could not 
refrain himself before all them that stood by him." And 
when the Egyptians were gone out, " he wept aloud," 
before he had power to speak a word of explanation to his 
astonished brethren ; who saw the uncontrollable and 
unaccountable emotion of this mysterious personage, 
while they were still waiting for his reply to Judah's 
magnanimous petition, and still ignorant of the name 
and race of this mighty ruler, whose hardness had terrified 



them, and whose, passionate loud weeping now as utterly 

II. The termination of the mystery. 

1. Joseph had sufficient and weighty reasons for putting 
an end to the assumed strangeness and harshness by 
which he had been so effectually concealed from the 
knowledge of his brethren. 

His prudence and his policy were satisfied by what he 
now saw of the altered spirit of his brethren. Benjamin's 
youth had removed from him the appearance of direct and 
immediate competition with his elder brethren. 

Joseph's heart was overcome by the yearnings of natural 
affection, and could no longer endure the restraint of a 
cold disguise. Above all his tenderest feeling was irre- 
sistibly touched by Judah's pathetic reference to the evil 
that might come upon his father. 

2. It was a family affair he had now to lay open — a 
matter of exquisite delicacy and great moment. 

* He therefore excluded strangers, and said what was 
understood to mean — Leave me alone with these men — I 
will settle ivith them in private. 

3. The manner in which he then made himself known, is 
one of the most moving and natural scenes in all human 

He wept aloud — his long restrained feelings broke loose, 
as soon as the Egyptians had withdrawn, with such 
vehement and loud weeping that he was heard beyond the 
apartment by those who had withdrawn. And this burst 
of uncontrollable emotion took place in the presence of the 
eleven brethren, before Joseph had power to speak a word 
of explanation. 

And when at length he began to speak — unable to 
master either his thoughts or his utterance so as to treat 
the news he had to tell in a gradual and orderly way, or 
with any preparatory observations, such as a cold and 


formal character might have introduced, he relieved his 
swelling heart at once by saying to the astonished brethren 
— who had been terrified with his severity, and then 
amazed and bewildered by the (to them) unaccountable 
circumstances of his loud weeping — " I (am) Joseph — 
Doth my father yet live ? " 

4. His brethren could not answer him, for they were 
terrified at his presence. 

He who had just before spoken with such natural and 
moving eloquence — Judah — was speechless as well as the 

Their minds were overwhelmed, distracted, confounded, 
with a torrent of recollections, conjectures, and sudden 

Recollections — of his features, his dreams, their cruelty 
to his helpless youth, his sorrowing father, who had 
mourned him as dead, and had been in awful ignorance of 
his state for twenty years — the guilty secret they had to 
keep from Jacob so long, after deceiving him with the torn 
and bloody coat of many colours. 

Conjectures — as to what might have been the vicissi- 
tudes through which Joseph had risen so high, as to what 
might be the state of his feelings towards them, as to the 
motives of his late mysterious proceedings. There was a 
blank of twenty years in their knowledge of Joseph's 
history, from the day they sold him, to the time when they 
heard this dignified and powerful stranger say, I — Joseph 
— my father — doth he yet live t 

With what flashes of rapid supposition would their 
thoughts fill up the blank. They saw Joseph's dignity 
and power, they had heard his startling statement, but 
they knew nothing of the captive steward, of the great 
Potiphar and his wife, the prison, the butler and baker, 
Pharaoh's dreams and the interpretations. 

Sudden emotions — of shame, remorse, fear, wuiider, 


amazement at the. mastery of Providence over the passions, 
plans, and efforts of men as displayed before their eyes by 
the fulfilment of Joseph's dreams through their own 
unwitting and hostile instrumentality; and terrible sus- 
pense as to the intentions of the injured brother whom 
they saw before them in irresistible authority. 

Then followed explanations which shewed plainly 
Joseph's forgiving disposition and affectionate purposes. 

III. The instruction to be drawn from the whole. 

1. The character of Joseph appears almost an exempli- 
fication of ideal perfection, with the advantage of such 
incidents, vicissitudes, and signs of strong and natural 
feeling, as place it fully within the region, in the very 
centre, of human sympathies. 

Whatever has been objected against the perfection of 
Joseph's character — such as his protesting by the life of 
Pharaoh, etc., admits of easy and probable explanation. 

2. If such perfection was attained in the patriarchal 
times, what are our privilege and duty ? 

3. We behold in this history not only the conduct of 
Joseph and his brethren, but the conduct of Providence 
also. This is so prominent throughout, that in many parts 
of the series one might say, This is the finger of God. 

4. Though we may not be authorised to say that 
Joseph was a type of Christ, there is much in his history 
to remind us of Jesus. 

I am Joseph. 

I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest. 

5. As the brethren stood in speechless confusion before 
Joseph, so will the unbelievers be troubled and confounded 
at the presence of the Saviour. 

"Those who set at nought and sold Hina, 

Deeply wailing shall the true Messiah see." 

CL As the dreams of Joseph were fulfilled, and that 


through the instrumentality of those who hated him, so 
shall the decree that every knee shall bow, and every 
tongue confess, that Jesus is the Lord. 

7. The difference between the slavery of Joseph and his 
subsequent grandeur is infinitely exceeded by the differ- 
ence between the humiliation and exaltation of Jesus. 
That difference has long ago been manifest to those who 
clamoured for His condemnation. 

8. As Joseph provided for the nourishment of those who 
had most deeply injured him, with their families, and sent 
them away with kindness, so that they greeted their aged 
father with the sudden burst of good news — Joseph is yet 
alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt, — so 
Jesus, who dying said, " Father, foigive them," sent Peter 
to say, "Unto you first, God, having raised up His Son, 
Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of 
you from his iniquities," — and Jesus is yet alive, and to 
Him is given all power in heaven and earth — He was 
heard saying, "I am He that liveth and was dead, and 
behold 1 am alive for evermore, Amen, and have the keys 
of hell and of death." 


"And Gideon came to Jordan and passed over, he and the three hundred 
men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing."— JUDGES viii. 4. 

There are serious objections to what is sometimes im- 
properly called spiritualizing. Hence Mr. Wesley advises 
Preachers to " be sparing in spiritualizing or allegorizing." 
That way of expounding sacred history has often led to 
plausible and mischievous error ; and when even the truth 
has been taught in that manner, it has been deprived of its 
proper authority by being placed on wrong and weak 

But, when an earnest purpose of instruction appears in 
the scriptural accounts of ancient times, or of whose deeds 
of men of Ood which were wrought in faith, — or when the 
facts stated involve important principles, — to lay open such 
principles, and to draw from such statements the implied 
and intended instruction, is one of the most interesting and 
profitable exercises of the understanding. 

The former parts of these chapters include statements 
avovjedly connected with principles, and exemplifying rules 
of divine dealing. 

The sure connexion between Sin and Misery was exempli- 
fied when the sins of the Israelites were nationally punished 
by the instrumentality of the Midianites, who mightily 
oppressed and grievously plundered the country for seven 
years ; taking away the crops after the Israelites had sown 
their fields ; and by the yearly repetition of these remorse- 
less ravages, rendering the land desolate and producing the 
horrors of famine. 

When the misery of the people had become intolerable 
and overwhelming, and they began to cry unto the Lord, 
the cause and intention of the divine chastisements were 

GIDEON. 103 

pointed out by the message of a prophet, who was sent to 
remind them of the glorious deliverances God had wrought 
for their forefathers, and of his solemn prohibition of idol- 
atry. When, therefore, " they cried to the Lord" because of 
the Midianites, they were put in remembrance that because 
of their sins, in forsaking God for idols, they were given 
into the power of their enemies. Thus the first answer to 
their prayer was the sending of a prophet to set their sins 
before them. 

The necessity and benefit of repentance were also exem- 
plified. After they had been taught to view their sins in 
connexion with their sufferings, an angel commissions 
Gideon — divinely chosen from an idolatrous family, when 
he was secretly threshing wheat to hide it from the Midi- 
anites — and gives him encouraging signs ; convincing him 
that his call to deliver Israel was from the Lord, and no 
delusion ; but exercising his faith in smaller duties and 
hazards, to prepare him for greater. 

Fruits of repentance, answerable to amendment of life 

Then on the re-appearance of the Midianites at the usual 
season — the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon — who 
blew a trumpet, and sent messengers to the nearest tribes ; 
whereupon thirty-two thousand assembled, — the Spirit 
having come upon them also, so as to dispose them to obey 
the call of Gideon. 

The necessity of faith in order to divine blessing was 
then exemplified. The faith of Gideon and his host was 
strengthened by the miraculous sign of the dew — first on the 
fleece only — then on the ground only. Being thus assured 
that God was with them, and that He could do every thing, 
they were prepared to trust in His Almighty arm. 

Then their strengthened faith was tried — in a manner 
which exemplified GodJs care to exclude boasting and to hide 
pride from man, yet at the same time to employ human 
agency in the obedience of faith. — Two divine directions 

1 04 GIDEON. 

reduced the army, first from thirty-two thousand to ten 
thousand, — then from ten thousand to three hundred ; and 
this was done on an avowed principle — the same which is 
declared by the Apostle, quoting the Prophet in 1 Corin- 
thians i., 31, "He that glorieth, let him glory in the 

The fulness of meaning in the divine proceedings thus 
far, the great importance of the practical lessons taught — 
and the striking agreement of the whole with great prin- 
ciples declared by the evangelical prophet, Isaiah xl. } and 
the apostle of the Gentiles — afford sufficient warrant for 
considering the text — a part of the same case — as inten- 
tionally suggestive. 

Paul places this case in Hebrews xi. among the examples 
of the operation and power of faith. 

Our sober commentator Benson says — 

Thus our spiritual warfare must be prosecuted with what 
strength vje have, though we may have but little. This is 
frequently the true Christian's case — like Gideon and his 
men — he is faint yet pursuing. 

Many spiritually-minded persons have felt and applied 
the passage in this manner. 

It is desirable to lead others to do so, — partly on account 
of the great value of the suggested instruction, — and partly 
because the same truth will sometimes be attended to and 
accepted as the indirect lesson of a lively and moving series 
of events, which, in the plain and direct form of doctrine 
or precept, would be disregarded. 

It may therefore be useful to consider respecting Gideon 
and his men 

I. The facts of the case. 

II. The principles which they exemplify. 

I. The Facts. 
The text places us in the midst of events at an advanced 

GIDEON. 105 

stage — when much was done — and much remaining to be 

1. Who and what were they who were faint yet pur- 
suing ? The victorious three hundred, who had previously 
cried to the Lord. Victorious, by divine power, through 
faith, which produced ivorks ; they went forth, trusting in 
the Lord. 

Gideon's plan — like Abraham's — an instance of inspired 
judgment and energy ; of divine influence not superseding, 
but exalting and invigorating, the natural faculties ; — not 
excluding, but producing, consummate generalship. 

Night attack — pitchers, lights, trumpets — shouting. 

Natural effects — bewilderment, amazement, terror, mutual 
slaughter and confused flight of the enemy : one hundred 
and twenty thousand slain. 

2. The victors — weak in themselves felt their bodily 
wants and infirmities. 

Faint, not in the sense of being faint-hearted ; but weak 
and weary in body with toil and unrest, continued excite- 
ment and hunger. 

What was this small and wearied band against the vast 
numbers of the enemy which still remained to be subdued? 

3. Notwithstanding all disadvantages, — their faintness 
and the multitude of their foes, — they were yet pursuing. 

Noble spirits — Gideon like the Roman dictator Cincin- 
natus goes from his farm to conduct the deliverance of his 

The three hundred, with their brave, inspired general — 
God's chosen men — were worthies as patriotic and devoted 
as king Leonidas and his three hundred Spartans, but more 
happy. Men worthy of such a commander. 

Here was mind, controlling and supporting the feeble 

Fortitude — regardless of ease or danger. 

Duty, paramount — eager to finish the work. 

106 GIDEON. 

These high qualities sustained them against the petulant 
jealousy of the [Xphraimites, against disappointments and 
insults at Succoth and Penuel, where the people looked at 
the whole affair— not as men of faith, but as men of busi- 
ness—these heroic virtues sustained them, till the brave 
band had completed the victory by a circuitous march, and 
another sudden attack while it was yet dark— but still 
against fifty to one. 

From this crowning victory, with the kings Zebah and 
Zalmunna for his captives, Gideon returned before the sun 
was up ; having proved man doth not live by bread alone, 
nor conquer by mere numbers or strength. 
II. Principles which the facts exemplify. 

1. We repeat that the preceding events in the context, 
show the connection of sin and misery; the intention of 
divine chastisements; the necessity and benefit of repen- 
tance ; the required instrumentality of faith and obedience ; 
God's care to exclude boasting. 

JFacts immediately connected with the text. 

2. The Text as a comment on the events, suggests that 
all God's people indeed, are called to be conquerors like 
Gideon and his men — on the same principles. 

Having first felt their guilt and misery, and having cried 
to the Lord, they have victory, by divine power, through 
faith. " Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world : 
and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our 
faith." This faith, producing works, on a plan which — as 
Gideon's divine commission and miraculous encouragement 
did not supersede, but call forth and employ, masterly 
generalship and mighty energy — requires us to " work out 
our own salvation with fear and trembling ;" — to be armed 
with the whole armour of God ; — to think of and strive for 
" whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, 
whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, 
whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good 

GIDEON. 107 

A plan which as in Gideon's case, secures the glory to 
him whose grace is sufficient for us, and whose strength is 
made perfect in weakness. 

All believers — amidst spiritual victories and triumphs 
are conscious of weakness in themselves — like Gideon and 
his men faint, yet not despondent, not cowardly, though 
feeble — needing the continual support of grace. 

" Weaker than a bruised reed, 
Help we every moment need." 

3. Like Gideon and his men they are called and able, 
notwithstanding their weakness to be still pursuing. 

God works by those who resist temptations to be weary 
in well-doing. The beginning, progress, and end of their 
salvation are by divine power and grace. 

4. While thus pursuing, th ey are liable to be tried like 
Gideon and his men, with foolish, jealous, testy brethren, 
like the Ephraimites ; — to be disappointed of expected help 
by selfish or churlish brethren — as at Succoth and Penuel. 

5. In the case of the Christian's spiritual warfare, as in 
Gideon's case, there is a disproportion of forces. 

Enemies — numerous, insolent, oppressive. 

Friends — some faint-hearted, like the twenty-two thou- 

some foolish like the Ephraimites. 

some selfish and churlish, like the men of Succoth 

and Penuel. 

The faithful — weak and faint in themselves. 

But — God is among his people — their sufficiency is of 
Him. Christ is their leader and commander, the Captain 
of their salvation — though they be as one in one hundred 
among nominal Christians. 

The Spirit which came upon Gideon, still directs and 
counsels the hosts of the Lord and animates them with a 
divine principle of life and holy courage : to those who 

108 GIDEON. 

still pursue and persevere the issue is certain. The happi- 
ness of deliverance — the peace after victory — glorious. 

6. Not only converted individuals, but all true churches 
exemplify the same principles. 

" Behold I have set before thee an open door, and no 
man can shut it ; for thou hast a little strength, and hast 
kept my word, and hast not denied my name." 


"And she said, Behold tby sister-in-law is gone back unto her people and 
unto her gods : return thou after thy sister-in-law. And Ruth said, Intreat 
me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee : for whither thou 
goest, I will go ; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge : thy people shall be my 
people, and thy God my God : Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I 
be buried : The Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee 
and me. When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then 
she left speaking to her." — Ruth i. 15-18. 

Three leading purposes seem to have been intended by 
the Holy Ghost in causing this book to be written. One 
obviously was, as it appears from internal evidence, to 
inform us concerning the family and line of David ; with 
a part of whose genealogy the book concludes ; and thus 
to lead us to Christ ; his Divine descendant. 

Another apparent purpose was, to display the Provi- 
dence of God, as superintending the affairs, and guarding 
the interests of His people, directing the steps of those 
who acknowledge Him in all their ways, compensating and 
rewarding those who make sacrifices for the Lord's sake. 

A very important purpose was, to exhibit a most impres- 
sive and encouraging example of religious decision, in one 
who had been an idolater. 

The last of these considerations is, in this history, so 
essential an element, that without it, all the rest would 
have been wanting. 

I consider, therefore, that these words contain the germ 
of the whole book ; which certainly would never have been 
written, if what the text states had not taken place, as a 
part of the life and conduct of this holy woman. 

Ruth's sayings anticipate some of the remote results of 
the course she was pondering. She looked far beyond the 
passing day. The plan of life which her few resolute 

1 1 RUTH. 

words so vividly told, was avowedly formed for life — for 
all time and for all eternity. We thus have occasion, from 
the text itself, to enquire how it fared with Euth, through 
that great future she saw in her mind's eye, when she said, 
" Where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried : 
the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death 
part thee and me." 

The sayings of Euth lead us to consider — Her critical 
situation, her solemn decision, and the blessed results. 

First, her critical situation. 

When Euth and her sister-in-law, Orpah, set out with 
Naomi, on the way from the country of Moab, to Bethle- 
hem in the land of Judah, it is likely their first intention 
was only to accompany her for a convenient distance, and 
then to bid her farewell and return to their home and 
friends. But when they halted for the purpose of parting, 
it seems they found in their own hearts a strength of 
affection for Naomi, beyond what they had been conscious 
of^ They then proposed to go all the way with her. 
Against this she reasoned with them, on the common 
principles of worldly prudence. Orpah was prevailed 
upon ; kissed her mother-in-law, and departed. 

"But Ruth clave unto her" Then Naomi said, "Thy 
sister-in-law is gone back unto her people and unto her 
gods ; return thou after thy sister-in-law." 

At this point, let us look at the situation of Euth ; the 
circumstances amidst which she was making up her mind. 

1. As to the time then passed in her own history. 
There can be no doubt that this would then and there be 
re-produced, before her mind's eye in rapid review. 

She had been connected by marriage with a sickly and 
declining but pious family of Israelites; to her a foreign 
race : her own nation and relatives were idolaters. 

The father-in-law, her husband, and his brother had 
died, after ten years residence in her country. When they 

RUTH. Ill 

were removed, it was natural for the childless widow, 
Naomi, to look with dislike on scenes in which all she saw 
spoke to her heart of losses which nothing earthly could 
retrieve ; hence her determination to return to Bethlehem. 
She had come to the land of Moab in a time of famine ; 
and " she had heard in the country of Moab how that the 
Lord had visited his people in giving them bread." A 
Jewish commentary (the Chaldee paraphrast) says con- 
cerning her sons, "because they transgressed the word of 
the Lord, and joined in affinity with a strange people, 
therefore their days were cut short.'; It is remarkable 
that the names of the two brothers, Mahlon and Chilion, 
are said to have signified, respectively, sickness and con- 

It is probable that by that time this family, of strangers 
and sojourners, was in sore poverty. In Judea they were 
owners of land. In time of famine they had sold their 
land, when land was worth little, and food Mas at a famine 
price, until the next year of Jubilee, hence the right of 
redeeming it from the purchaser or his heirs. They had 
come to the land of Moab for bread. There the decaying 
house had been wasted by sickness and death ; and had 
doubtless grown poorer. How many touching scenes, of 
suffering, and sorrow, and tenderness, would Ruth remem- 
ber, when the question was — whether she should part 
from Naomi, or go all the way with her. 

2. As to the probable future. 

In the case of her persisting to accompany Naomi, she 
had no encouraging worldly prospects. 

She was likely to share the poverty of Naomi, who 
appears to have acquired the unpleasant habit of com- 
plaining; a habit which repels instead of attracting 
sympathy : likely, as Naomi pointed out to her, to remain 
a childless widow : likely, also, according to the course of 
nature, to survive Naomi, after witnessing her growing 

1 1 2 RUTH. 

infirmities, and watching her dying hours ; and then to be 
left, a lonely and* disconsolate stranger, far from the scenes 
and the friends of her early years ; and at last, to be herself 
dying alone, unattended, unbefriended, in a strange land. 

3. As to the time then present. 

When she halted with Naomi in the way, she had the 
example of her sister-in-law, and the arguments of her 
mother-in-law, in favour of going back to Moab and its 

It is somewhat startling to find Naomi advising Euth to 
go back to her people, and their gods. But we may 
imagine, with some probability, the possible motives of 
Naomi, for urging Euth, at least in words, to return with 
Orpah : I say, at least, in words. She might have a 
prudent fear of the possible murmurings of a daughter-in- 
law, poor and discontented ; and might be therefore guard- 
ing herself from any words, on her own part, which could 
afterwards be cast up to her, as having persuaded Euth to 
share her distressed condition. But her mention of the 
gods of Moab suggested views entirely opposite to her 
direct expressions ; views which might perhaps become 
more strongly suggestive by some peculiar pathos in 
speaking, some tone or cadence which filled Euth's mind 
with solemn memories, and perhaps recalled her best 
thoughts of the departed. She had been favoured with 
opportunities to know something of the faith and hope of 
this Hebrew family, and might have seen in the wasting 
lives and dying hours of Elimelech and his sons, something 
of the nature and blessedness of even infirm and wavering 
piety, such as theirs seems to have been. She had been 
enabled to estimate their religion, in comparison with the 
vain and wretched idolatry of her country; and had the 
means of being convinced that Jehovah alone was God. 

Her situation made some choice needful and inevitable. 
It seemed to say — as to either alternative, — now or never ! 

RUTH. 1 1 3 

But it did not, on worldly principles, point to the choice 
she made. 

Secondly, her solemn decision. 

In these impressive circumstances, doubtless under a 
gracious influence from the same Lord who, long after- 
wards, opened the heart of Lydia, Euth, chose Naomi, jbhe 
aged, dejected, poor, complaining widow, for her sole com- 
panion and friend, quitting all others ; leaving father and 
mother, as it is said, in Ch. II. v. 11, to go with her to a 
country she never saw ; to lodge with her, though in such 
a cottage as a poor widow might occupy at Bethlehem. 
During their companionship in long continued and severe 
family afflictions, the hearts of Euth and Naomi had been 
trained to feel deeply and to sympathize strongly. They 
had watched and mourned together, for the same lingering 
and departing sufferers. They shared together cherished 
sorrows and endeared remembrances. They had learned to 
know each other in the house of mourning. Naomi seems 
to have thought she did well to be querulous, and her 
habitual complainings must sometimes have been weari- 
some ; but Euth seems to have had a considerate generosity 
in judging; prepared and disposed to prize solid worth 
amidst wants and infirmities. 

Under the same gracious influence which then prevailed 
in her thoughts and feelings, she chose Israel, the church 
of the living God, the people in covenant with God, for her 
people ; finally leaving her own country and nation. 

In connexion with the cherished hope of Israel, which 
was the hope of a glorious incarnate Eedeemer, she chose 
Naomi's God, the Lord Jehovah, for her God : Jehovah 
God All-sufficient : the all-pervading, all-knowing, ever 
living Being : " whose goings forth have been from of old 
from everlasting." — Micah v. 2. Thy people shall be my 
people, and thy God my God. 

Farewell to Chemosh, and all the idols of Moab ! 


114 RUTH. 

Let us look a,t the sentiments which appear to have 
actuated Euth in making, avowing, and keeping her choice. 

Euth made her choice affectionately. 

Personal and family attachments appear to have been 
made instrumental towards the awakening and enlightening 
of her conscience, and the developing and strengthening of 
her religious affections, as motives to consideration. 

She avowed her choice with characteristic firmness : 
expressing a settled and unalterable purpose, that she 
might put an end at once to all attempts to dissuade or 
hinder her. It is not in a spirit of hesitation or com- 
promise that a great and real change of mind can be 
wrought out, and practically maintained. All attempts to 
reconcile the world to holiness, by half-measures, will fail. 
Thoroughness and straightforwardness in the path of duty, 
are really easier and safer, than any of the most plausible 
and cunningly-devised middle courses. The weak com- 
pliances of those who think to shew their moderation, by 
halting and wavering, near the boundaries of right from 
wrong, will always be used to the hurt of the wavering soul. 
To the invisible powers who wield the weapons of tempta- 
tion, such concessions to worldliness, will be as the joints 
of the harness through which Ahab received his mortal 
wound ; but the bow will be drawn, not at a venture, but 
with cruel clearness of aim. Is there not reason to fear 
that many are lost for want of the conscientious firmness, 
that is habitually prepared to give a prompt and full denial 
to all pleadings about more or less of sin. 

Euth made her choice solemnly ; fortifying her resolve 
and avowal, by calling to mind the most moving and awful 
considerations — her dying hour, and her belief in divine 
judgment and retribution. " Where thou diest will I die, 
and there will I be buried : the Lord do so to me, and more 
also, if aught but death part thee and me." She strove to 
make her choice final and irretrievable; presenting it to 

KUTH. 115 

Naomi and herself in the most impressive form. She acted 
like that ancient commander who, entering an enemy's 
country from the sea, burnt his ships, that his soldiers 
might be led to think, not, how shall we escape ; but, solely, 
how shall we secure victory? She speaks not as one 
entering upon a doubtful enterprise, or trying an experi- 
ment; but as one who looked forward to the end of all 
things, — as anticipating effects throughout her own ever- 
lasting being : not as having a month's mind to religion, 
but as choosing, once for all, for all time, for all eternity, 
by a well considered and irreversible decision. The danger 
of trusting in our own resolutions is often very justly urged 
on grounds of religious prudence ; but the danger really 
lies in forgetting or neglecting the charge, — " Trust in the 
Lord, with all thine heart; and lean not to thine own 
understanding." Nothing great, or even safe, can be ac- 
complished in the concerns of the soul, without strong 
resolutions, made and kept in the fear of God, and in 
humble reliance on his guiding eye and succouring 

In the crisis of Euth's case, we see the proper charac- 
teristic strength of a feminine-nature, developed by the 
influence of the affections, and, through Gi^ace, resulting in 
sublime foresight and invincible determination. Euth 
seems not to have been aware that she was acting with a 
glorious greatness of mind, but in the supreme judgment 
of the Divine Spirit, who is the primary author of all Holy 
Scripture, she did that day an everlasting deed, which 
deserved to be had in perpetual remembrance. Learn hence 
whom the Lord delighteth to honour. 

Thirdly. The sayings of Euth lead us to enquire — How 
it fared with her through that great future she pondered, 
while she halted on the way to Bethlehem, and was making 
up her mind. 

1. She gained her immediate object. There was an end 

116 EUTH. 

of objection and remonstrance, on the part of Naomi. 
"When she saw "that she was steadfastly minded to go 
with her, then she left speaking to her." John Foster 
remarks, in substance, that it is sometimes amusing to see 
how the space clears around a man, when those who would 
willingly embarrass or obstruct him, but are unable to 
crush him, perceive in his conduct the signs of a strong 
and persevering resolution. In such cases, opponents who 
are not very much in earnest, shrink from the protracted 
toil and difficulty of their foreseen task, and give up from 
weariness. And the thoughtful moralist, Johnson, advises 
those who discover that their system of life has been 
wrong, to change it at once and entirely ; without trusting 
to delusive plans of moderate and gradual reformation. 
He who deliberately intends only moderate amendment of 
life, is not sincere and thorough in hatred to sin ; and he 
who calculates upon gradual change from bad to better, 
forgets the enthralling influence of habit. These poor and 
spiritless schemes will fail, and deserve to be defeated. 
" I'he Lord preserveth the simple." 

2. For some time, Euth found her chief reward in her 
own good and kind feelings, the friendship of Naomi, and 
a solemn gladness of heart, in serving and pleasing the 
true God. These, however, were great and precious reali- 
ties, sweet recompenses, the better part, — far more real and 
valuable than those outward and visible signs of the 
profit of godliness, which are often chiefly regarded and 
recommended. "Doth Job fear God for nought?" This 
cavil of the accuser of the brethren, was like most of his 
temptations ; a falsehood founded on a fact : a malicious 
imputation of refined and far-seeing selfishness to Job, on 
the ground that Divine Providence had so guarded and 
prospered him, as to make his personal godliness plainly 
and eminently profitable. But Euth had commenced her 
decided course in the spirit and practice of sacrifice ; and 

RUTH. 1 1 7 

with motives widely apart from selfish calculations. She 
had repelled views of worldly prudence; and made her 
choice on spiritual grounds. 

3. For a season her constancy was well-tried. She 
shared the poverty of Naomi to a degree, which, to a 
selfish and haughty spirit, however romantic, would have 
been intensely mortifying. They arrived in the beginning 
of barley-harvest ; and so real was their poverty, that it 
was quite a valuable consideration for these two poor, 
godly women, to obtain as much corn as one of them might 
be permitted to glean after the reapers in the harvest field. 
It was Buth's own humble and cheerful proposal. She 
said to Naomi, " Let me now go to the field, and glean ears 
of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace." She 
had the greatness of mind to be not ashamed of poverty 
and labour. And she continued to glean " to the end of 
barley-harvest and of wheat-harvest, and dwelt with her 
mother in law." 

4. But by swift steps her worldly state improved. 

The difficult stranger who, as this book says, had " left 
her father and her mother, and the land of her nativity, 
and had come unto a people she knew not heretofore," 
found among the Israelites of Bethlehem, a friendly and 
open-hearted people, who were kind to her in her poverty, 
rejoiced with her when better days came, and admired and 
commended her virtuous behaviour. 

In a few days after the two harvests, a course of events 
took place, — approved by the national law and by the 
system of manners among the Israelites at Bethlehem, — 
which in fairness should be regarded from their point of 
view, and tried by their standard, rather than by modern 
laws and examples. These events wrought a great change 
in the condition of Naomi and Buth. Naomi sold her 
land, in the manner required by the law and practice 
of those times concerning the redemption of estates of 

118 KUTH. 

inheritance. The £oor widow, Ruth, became the wife of 
rich Boaz ; — a good, religious, respected and amiable man ; 
a prince by descent; and, as the simple phrase of those 
days describes him, " a mighty man of wealth." 

The childless daughter of Moab became a mother in 
Israel; an ancestress of the long line of the kings of 
Judah, David himself being her glorious great grandson. 

She, the alien and foreigner, who had chosen Jeremiah 
for her God, obtained what the daughters of Israel earnestly 
desired, and the hope of which was intimately combined 
with their general wish for offspring ; an honourable and 
eminent place as a mother in the sacred line of the 
promised " seed of the woman," of whom the wonderful 
child came, the mysterious Son of Man, and Son of God, 
" who is over all, God blessed for ever/' Rom. ix. 5. 

She who, in choosing to follow Naomi, seemed likely to 
pass away into oblivion, and leave none after her to cherish 
her memory, will be for ever remembered ; and is one of 
the only two women whose names are prefixed to books of 
the Holy Scriptures ; being in this way peculiarly distin- 
guished by the honour that comes from God. Wherever 
the Bible is read, it extends and preserves the memory of 
Ruth. Concerning Mary of Bethany, Jesus, said, " Where- 
soever this Gospel shall be preached throughout the whole 
world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for 
a memorial of her." Thus the act which Judas censured, 
but Jesus approved, was rewarded with an everlasting fame, 
which is, in a manner and degree pre-eminently marked, 
the honour that cometh from God. Ruth, like Mary, had 
" chosen that good part, which shall not be taken from her." 
And that Spirit of Grace, by whose Divine influence, Ruth 
was enabled to choose in faith and in the spirit of sacri- 
fice, has so set the seal of his approbation to the principle 
of her decision, as amply and signally to fulfil what was 
spoken to her, as a poor gleaner, by the kind and pious 

BUTH. 119 

Boaz. " The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward 
be given thee, of the Lord God* of Israel, under whose 
wings thou art come to trust." 

Above all, — as by the avowed principles of her choice, 
Ruth confessed her trust in that incarnate deliverer, who 
was the cherished Hope of Israel ; and as she persevered 
through discouragements and difficulties, with exemplary 
fortitude and humility — virtues more naturally and closely 
connected than is usually supposed — we have no reason to 
doubt that she died as she had lived, still trusting in the 
promised Redeemer, and thus " abiding under the shadow of 
tJie Almighty." 

She was thus compensated and rewarded, according to 
the law afterwards declared by her Divine descendant, at 
every point where she had made sacrifices. The temporal 
blessings she obtained were far more and greater than she 
had ever taken into her anticipations ; — exemplifying what 
was afterwards taught. — " Seek first the kingdom of God, 
and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added 
unto you. — There is no man that hath left house, or 
parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom 
of God's sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this 
present time, and in the world to come life everlasting." 

Many who would scorn to imitate Ruth's humility, are, 
in point of character, unworthy to be named with her. 

We may never be placed in circumstances like those of 
Ruth in particulars, in things outward and temporal ; but 
we have been, or shall be, in situations as critical, and as 
momentous in their influence on our future; turning points 
on which great consequences are dependent ; cases in which 
what we do or neglect will involve helps or hinderances in 
our way of duty and of safety, through long periods. 

Both our interest and our duty require — that we should 
imitate Ruth's religious decision in its characteristic quali- 
ties, of self-denial, unreservedness and unchangeableness. 

If we adopt Ruth's principles, and act accordingly, with 

120 RUTH. 

perseverance, we shall be equally rewarded ; perhaps not in 
the same manner; but her best portion we may partake. 

Some of you may afford, to the young and inexperienced, 
the advantages of pious connexions, and are under a plain 
obligation to do so. Those who can give are bound to give 
such spiritual light and aid as the family of Naomi afforded 
to Euth, — the advantages of the society and example of 
the people of God. 

Some of you have this, advantage, and ought, like Euth, 
to lay to heart the facts, and truths thus presented to your 
attention ; and so to consider your ways, as to adopt her 
choice; and make it your life-work to persevere in the 
same course of action. 

Some of you have been reminded of the time when you 
happily chose the Lord's people for your people, and the 
Lord for your God. Still walk by the same rule, and mind 
the same thing. 

Some of you may have pious connexions, like Naomi, 
whom you love and reverence; but whose example you 
have* not yet begun to follow. When will you begin ? The 
want of a beginning may be fatal. 

Some of you may, like Orpah, have accompanied your 
pious friends to a certain extent; and then gone back 
to your people — your worldly friends, — and their gods. 
Consider that whosoever will be a friend of the world is 
the enemy of God, and that worldliness is, essentially, 
idolatry; which God earnestly and solemnly warns and 
entreats his people to avoid, saying in Jeremiah, xliv., 4, " O 
do not this abominable thing that I hate." Will you, 
being warned, cleave to worldly friends and their ways ; 
and deliberately, do the abominable thing which God hates ? 

Some of you — may we hope ? are now making up, or 
have made up your minds, to go all the way with your pious 

Perhaps this day may be a decisive day in the life of 
some of you, a day which may have effects to all eternity. 


"And Samuel said unto Saul, Wherefore hast thou disquieted me, to bring 
me up ? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed, for the Philistines make 
war upon me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, 
neither by prophets, nor by dreams ; therefore, I have called thee, that thou 
may est make known unto me what I shall do." — 1 Samuel xxviii. 15. 

A remaekable counterpart of this passage occurs in 
chapter xxx, verse 6. "And David was greatly distressed ; 
for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all 
the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his 
daughters ; but David encouraged himself in the Lord his 

It is an important help to the interpretation of the 
Scriptures, to keep in remembrance the essential sameness 
of human nature in all countries, among all races of men, 
and its permanency in all times and generations, whatever 
may be the distinguishing peculiarities of the circumstances 
and spirit of the age. 

Another principle to be kept in view for the same pur- 
pose, is the permanent sameness of the way of salvation ; 
the truth that the divinely appointed method of salvation, 
has in every age had Christ for the foundation ; and that 
salvation by Him, has always been by grace through faith ; 
and that under all the dispensations, God has required 
from His people a rational, spiritual, and willing service, 
the obedience of a believing and loving heart. In this 
book of the Scriptures there is abundant evidence that the 
divine religion, which is more fully developed and expanded 
in the New Testament, is substantially the same religion, 
which, in principle and spirit, was known and enjoyed by 
holy patriarchs and true Israelites. To observe how the 
same principles which are laid down in the doctrinal, are 


illustrated in the historical parts of God's word, is an 
inexhaustible source of interest and instruction. 

Had the Bible no pretensions to divine authority, it 
would be eagerly read as the most entertaining book in 
existence. If it were not interesting, still it was written 
for our instruction in the things of God, and therefore 
claims our constant study and perusal ; if it were as dull 
as a conveyance or an act of parliament, it contains the 
title deeds of our inheritance, and should be carefully 

The narratives of the first three kings are specially 
attractive and impressive. Saul, David, and Solomon 
stand conspicuous in the Jewish history, They had 
greater dominion, their personal characters are strongly 
marked, their actions are particularly recorded. Saul w 7 as 
the first, David the most active and heroic, Solomon the 
wisest, greatest, and most magnificent of all the Jewish 
kings. The personal history of Saul is the most melan- 
choly in the Scriptures, though he was far from being the 
worst of men. These sacred biographies were given for 
great purposes, and should be studied as illustrative of 
divine conduct. 

Our text leads us to consider 

I. The circumstances of Saul's distress, as stated by 

II. The causes. 

III. The desperate means to which he had recourse in 
this gloomy crisis, alluded to in Samuel's question and 
Saul's answer. 

IV What success he had in using means so improper 
and desperate. 

I. The circumstances of Saul's distress, as stated by him 
to Samuel. 

1. "The Philistines make war upon me." They were 
invading his dominions with a powerful army. When 

saul's distress. 123 

Saul saw their host, " he was afraid, and his heart greatly 
trembled/' not as a coward, but from a fear that God would 
not bless his arms. 

2. " God is departed from me." This is matter of 
history recorded in chapter xii. verse 14. 

God had previously, by the gifts of His Spirit, endowed 
Saul with the judgment and magnanimity necessary for 
his high office. When God departed from him, an evil 
spirit troubled him, a deep settled melancholy aggravated 
by extraordinary and powerful satanic temptations, perhaps, 
occasionally by demoniacal possession. 

3. "God answereth me no more, neither by prophets, 
nor by dreams." He was utterly perplexed in his own 
judgments, he had experienced, during the life of Samuel, 
the vast advantage of having a counsellor for emergencies, 
who spoke the mind of God, but now Samuel was dead, he 
himself had not access to God, there appears to have been 
no prophet in the land but Gad, who counselled David ; 
(see xxii. 5,) but seems to have had no intercourse with 
Saul, he had no prophetic dreams, which sometimes have 
been a means of divine direction, and his connexion ^vith 
the priests, by whom the Israelites could on proper 
occasions enquire of God, was cut off by his own act. 

4. His distress was extreme- — " I am sore distressed." 
II. The causes of his distress. 

1. Impatience and unbelief. 

Saul's impatience, and want of the faith of Gideon, led 
to his usurpation of the office of the priesthood, thus 
presumptuously and profanely attempting to change the 
Israelitish constitution which God himself had appointed *: 
see chapter xiii. 8, 14, and xiv. 35. For a similar offence 
Uzziah was smitten with leprosy, 2 Chronicles xxvi. 1 6. 

2. Unfaithfulness. 

His breach of trust in the commission he received to 
destroy the Amalekites, in which, from fear of the people, 

124 saul's distress. 

he gave up his duty, and acted as if he had power to alter 
or modify God's directions. See chapter xv. Like Achan, 
and like Annanias and Sapphira. 

3. Envious jealousy. 

His yielding to a mean spirit of envy, jealousy, hatred, 
and ingratitude towards David, who at length found it 
necessary to be continually on his guard, and to distrust 
even the oaths of Saul, even after he had twice magnani- 
mously spared his life, when he could have put him to 
death at a blow. 

4. Cruelty. 

His wanton cruelty in putting all the priests to the 
sword with their families, Abiathar only escaping, (xxii. 9, 
etc.,) and upon mere suspicion — if his suspicion had been 
correct, he spared not the innocent. How different from 
his conduct to Agag. When he was sent to execute the 
displeasure of God, he spared Agag and the best of the 
cattle. When his own violent anger and suspicion 
impelled him, he burnt and destroyed everything. 

5. The comprehensive cause was his departure from God. 
These were the acts of one who had resisted and lost the 

Spirit of God. 

III. The desperate expedient to which he had recourse. 

1. Had Samuel been living, he would at once have gone 
to him : he had found this prophet severe, but faithful, and 
he seems to have felt a true veneration for his high and 
holy character. 

2. The recollection that Samuel, if alive, would have 
been his best resource next to God, suggested the wish to 
see him living or dead, and led him to think that if he 
could only evoke the spirit of Samuel, he should obtain 
counsel as from God. 

3. In his better days, by enforcing the divine law against 
them, Saul had driven out of his kingdom those who used 
enchantments, and who had, or pretended to have, inter- 


course with evil spirits : hence persons of this class were 
not numerous. 

4. Note, in his evil days, despairing of success by natural 
means, and not finding God with him as in former wars, his 
distress suggested an extraordinary mode of seeking preter- 
natural aid. Therefore he said unto his servants, " Seek 
me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to 
her, and enquire of her." He, no doubt, recollected the 
unlawfulness of the course he was now adopting : but 
he felt a reckless impatience of uncertainty, a desire to 
know even the worst ; and perhaps satisfied himself by 
reasoning, that, though he applied to one who dealt with 
Satan, it was not Satan's aid he wished for — he sought 
counsel of the dead — not of the woman, nor of her 
familiar spirit. 

5. "And Saul disguised himself, and put on other 
raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they 
came to the woman by night : and he said, I pray thee, 
divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him 
up, whom I shall name unto thee. And the woman said 
unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how 
he hath cut off those that hath familiar spirits, and the 
wizard's, out of the land : wherefore then layest thou a 
snare for my life, to cause me to die ? And Saul sware to 
her by the Lord, saying, As the Lord liveth, there shall no 
punishment happen to thee for this thing. Then said the 
woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee ? And he said, 
Bring me up Samuel. And when the woman saw Samuel, 
she cried with a loud voice : and the woman spake to Saul, 
saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul. 
And the king said unto her, Be not afraid : for what 
sawest thou ? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods 
ascending out of the earth. And he said unto her, What 
form is he of ? And she said, An old man cometh up ; 
and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived 


that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the 
ground, and bowecf himself." 

6. Samuel appeared, not compelled by incantations, and 
the suddenness, the reality, and the awful sanctity of his 
appearance seem to have astonished and alarmed the 
sorceress. She probably intended her familiar spirit to 
assume his form, but, before she could commence her 
jugglery, Samuel appeared. 

7 There is nothing to countenance the surmise that 
Saul was deceived. "And Samuel said, Why hast thou 
disquieted me to bring me up ? And Saul answered, I am 
sore distressed ; for the Philistines make war upon me, and 
God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, 
neither by prophets, nor by dreams : therefore I have 
called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I 
shall do." 

IV What success had he in using such improper and 
desperate means ? 

1. He obtained no direction. 

2. His worst apprehensions were confirmed. 

3. The transferrence of his kingdom to David was 

4. The death of himself and his sons on the morrow was 
predicted, and the miserable defeat of his army. 

5. Some have charitably understood the prediction of 
his death as not inconsistent with his ultimate happiness. 

" What do these solemn words portend ? 
A gleam of hope when life shall end : 
Thou and thy sons, though slain, shall be 
To-morrow in repose with me ! 

" Not in a state of hellish pain, 
If Saul with Samuel doth remain ; 
Not in a state of damned despair, 
If loving Jonathan be there ! " 

6. Charles Wesley, the author of these lines, probably 
thought that Saul's falling on his sword was not a com- 

saul's distress. 127 

mon case of suicide. He was already wounded, perhaps 
mortally : and one commentator suggests that the dread 
he expressed of the uncircumcised, was probably con- 

7. But — he was no idolater — he was in some points 
zealous for God. He was an able and active prince, and 
in some things politic as well as brave. His last battle is 
an instance of bravery almost beyond example. 

8. He was one of the many who mistake, rashness for 
decision, and his heart was corrupted by power. His first 
and last errors sprung from want of faith, and from impa- 
tience of suspense (a weakness which many mistake for 
strength), and a fretful restlessness in the season of per- 
plexity which impelled him so that he felt as if he must, 
and therefore would, do something, though he knew not 
what to do. " Commit thy way unto the Lord." " Eest in 
the Lord, wait patiently for Him." " Cease from anger 
and forsake wrath." " Fret not thyself in any wise to do 

This portion of sacred history affords indubitable proof, 
in opposition to some shallow divines, that the ancient 
Jews were no Sadducees, but aware of a separate state of 
departed souls. 

Saul's conduct shews the folly and danger of supersti- 
tious persons attempting to pry unlawfully into futurity. 

Observe the contrast between Saul and David, about 
the same time that the former applied to the witch 
of Endor, "David encouraged himself in the Lord his 

The case of Saul is a terrible example of the peril of 
departing from God by presumptuous sins. God departed 
from him, answering him no more by dreams, prophets, or 
oracles ; nor by that spirit of counsel and might which 
came upon him after his anointing. He presents an 
impressive instance of the fearful efficacy of God's dis- 


pleasure in making wretched. Though prophets and oracles 
have ceased, still God intimates his awful displeasure to 
those who have departed from him, by answering no more, 
withdrawing the light and comfort, the guiding and 
animating influence of His Holy Spirit, till they humble 
themselves, repent and do the first works. 

The doubtfulness of Saul's end should stimulate us to 
seek, and to hold fast, a present salvation. 



" And Rizpab, the daughter of Aiah, took sackcloth, and spread it for her 
upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them 
out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by 
day, nor the beasts of the field by night. And it was told David what Rizpah, 
the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done." — 2 Sam. xxi. 10, 11. 

Though very different from such passages as are usually, 
and properly, chosen for the subjects of discourses intended 
for general edification, — these words preserve an affecting 
portion of personal history, recorded under the unerring 
direction of the omniscient Spirit of God. They afford, as 
apparently they were designed to afford, — weighty practical 
lessons for all time. 

By these events important principles of human nature 
and of divine government are exemplified and illustrated. 
Attention is invited to the Facts and the Lesson's of this 
remarkable portion of inspired history. 

I. The Facts. 

1. The narrative leads the thoughts of the reader about 
four hundred years backward, to the early part of Joshua's 
government. The ninth chapter of Joshua states the 
motives and the circumstances of the deception by which 
the Gibeonites imposed upon the elders of Israel, who 
received and credited messengers from Gibeon, on the 
plausible but imperfect evidence of their dry and mouldy 
victuals. Supposing them as they professed to .be, ambas- 
sadors from the people of " a very far country," Joshua and 
the princes hastily made a solemn league with them. The 
princes of the congregation "asked not counsel at the 
mouth of the Lord ;" yet they " made peace with them," 
and made a league with them. In the name of Him, whose 


130 EIZPAH. 

counsel they might have obtained, but had neglected to 
seek, "the princes of the congregation sware unto them." 
Thus, by the pen of faithful Joshua, who having been with 
them in this affair, so takes his share of the blame, their 
rashness and neglect of duty are acknowledged. Benson 
remarks, "it is probable, if God had been consulted, he 
would have consented to the sparing of the Gibeonites; 
yet it should have been done with more caution, and with 
an obligation upon them to embrace the true religion." 
Yet that this league was lawful and binding appears — as 
Benson further says — " Because Joshua and all the princes, 
upon the review, concluded it so to be, and spared them 
accordingly — and because God punished the violation of it 
long after." 2 Sam. xxi., 1. In three days it was discovered 
that the Gibeonites were not people of a far country, but 
near neighbours, who had obtained this league by false 
pretences; and then the multitude "murmured against the 
princes." As Benson says — " Both from proneness to 
censure the actions of their rulers ; and from the desire 
of the spoil of these cities." But the princes being by 
this time made wary by reflection on the embarrassment 
which had resulted from their former haste — proceeded 
with considerate fairness. They reproached the Gibeonites 
for having gained an advantage by fraud ; but remembered 
that they had sworn unto them by the "Lord God of 
Israel." Begarding both parts of the case, they proposed 
a revised form of the treaty, which having been accepted 
by the Gibeonites, implied a recognition by the two 
peoples of guiding principles of equity ; which principles 
it is interesting to contemplate in conjunction with the 
time and circumstances of the case ; so trying to the self- 
love of both nations ; and affording so critical a test of the 
wise foresight and the faithful obedience of the princes of 
the congregation. 

Concerning Bizpah, the daughter of Aiah, the Scriptures 

EIZPAH. 131 

do not give a history ; but they record brief fragments of 
information respecting her, which are very suggestive. It 
will soon be three thousand years since she was on earth 
among the living. Concerning most of the departed, it 
may be said, as it is observed in Ecclesiastes, "There is 
no remembrance of former things;" yet the name and 
memory of these persons who are incidentally mentioned 
in the sacred writings, are thereby preserved through all 
time ; like the wing of a fly in amber ; and in connexion 
with testimonies which stir deep reflection, and impart 
precious instruction. Eizpali is casually named in chapter 
iii. verse 7, of the second book of Samuel, in a part of 
Saul's personal history; and again in this place. She had 
been the favourite of king Saul; and after his death was 
the favourite of Abner, his cousin, the most powerful chief 
of Saul's house It is likely that rare personal beauty was 
one source of her influence in both cases. It is remarkable 
that she who had borne two sons to Saul, should have 
retained beauty or influence so long after Saul's death. 
Her influence with him had probably been exerted, after 
the usual manner of royal favourites, in turning his 
passions and prejudices to account, for the advantage of 
herself and her children ; and, as the sequel of her story 
seems to imply, to the cost and ruinous injury of the 
oppressed Gibeonites. Concluding after three successive 
years of famine that such a calamity, impressively repeated, 
could not have come upon Israel without cause, nor with- 
out God, David enquired of the Lord. "And the Lord 
answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because 
he slew the Gibeonites." Ages before the time when " it 
was told David what Eizpah the daughter of Aiah, the 
concubine of Saul, had done;" Joshua and the princes had 
made that covenant with the Gibeonites, which after their 
deceit had been discovered was deliberately modified and 
confirmed, in a manner which bound Israel to mercy, and 

132 RIZPAH. 

the Gibeonites to permanent, but sacred and not excessive 

The Gibeonites had undesignedly given the people of 
God a precious opportunity for teaching, not merely by 
wordy protestations, but by the practical and weighty 
testimony of a solemn international compact, that they 
acknowledged on their own part, and claimed from others, 
the duty of being upright aud sincere in all transactions. 
The principle was the same which above nine hundred 
years later, was taught in the message of God by Zechariah 
viii. 16. "These are the things that ye shall do; Speak 
ye every man the truth to his neighbour ; execute the 
judgment of truth and peace in your gates : and let none 
of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; 
and love no false oath : for all these are things that I hate, 
saith the Lord." 

Several ages after what was recorded by Moses concern- 
ing Amalek, and by Joshua, concerning the Gibeonites, 
Semi imperfectly and evasively, executed the doom of 
Amalek (see Exodus xvii. 8-14; 1 Samuel xv. 2-11), and 
afterwards sought to destroy the Gibeonites. To do this 
was not only not commanded, but was a flagrant and cruel 
breach of an international contract. In both cases Saul, 
by his presumptuous deviations from divine directions, 
sought to please the people. The life of one man, Joshua, 
comprised the divine charge to wage endless war with 
Amalek, and the oath to spare the Gibeonites. Both were 
in regard to Saul's duty, binding obligations. Saul was 
charged to fulfil the sentence against Amalek, which he 
partly evaded ; and he transgressed further also by violat- 
ing the oath which protected the Gibeonites. 

In both instances, as before-mentioned, Saul sought to 
please the people. In sparing part of the spoils of 
Amalek, he gratified the people's covetousness. In perse- 
cuting the Gibeonites, he had similar motives. The 

rizpah. 133 

Gibeonites were in possession of lands and cities, which 
they held by the title of the ancient league, ratified by the 
sanction of an oath; which the princes of Israel in the 
time of Joshna held sacred. But the increased numbers 
and possessions of Israel since Joshua's time had stimu- 
lated that covetousness of the people, which early broke 
forth in murmurs against the princes, when their first 
hasty agreement with the Gibeonites had precluded the 
greedy crowd from dividing the spoils of Gibeon and its 
cities. The lands and cities of Gibeon were still more 
valuable in Saul's time ; and eyed by his subjects with an 
evil covetousness, which made the oath, which guarded 
those possessions, seem a hateful limitation to the rapa- 
cious desires of Israel. Saul knew the disposition of his 
people, and, to please them, oppressed the Gibeonites with 
sanguinary violence, making it perilous for them to remain 
in any of the coasts of Israel. 2 Samuel xxi. 5. And on 
the side of their oppressor there " was power, but they had 
no comforter." Ecclesiastes iv. 1. Yet they had an all- 
seeing, watchful, and awful avenger. For after so long 
a time, the same Lord who first commanded war with 
Amalek, and in whose name Joshua and the princes had 
sworn to the Gibeonites, four hundred and twelve years 
after the conflict with Amalek at Rephidim, remembered 
Amalek; and nearly four hundred years— 372 — after the 
oath of the princes, remembered Gibeon, and punished the 
breach of the solemn treaty which bound Israel to spare it. 
The wrongs and sufferings of the Gibeonites having 
been thus pleaded by the divine remembrance and advocate, 
they were called upon to say what they would accept as a 
compensation for their national injuries. The Gibeonites, 
says this record, " were not of the children of Israel, but of 
the remnant of the Amorites ; and the children of Israel 
had sworn unto them : and Saul sought to slay them in 
his zeal to the children of Israel and Jiulah. Wherefore 

134 EIZPAH. 

David said unto tiie Gibeonites, What shall I do for you ? 
and wherewith shall I make the atonement that ye may 
bless the inheritance of the Lord ? 2 Samuel xxi. 1-3- 
After disclaiming any wish to compound their injuries for 
money, " they answered the king, The man that consumed 
us, and that devised against us that we should be destroyed 
from remaining in any of the coasts of Israel, let seven 
men of his sons be delivered unto us, and we will hang 
them up unto the Lord in Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the 
Lord." [Margin.] " And the king said, I will give them." 
But for a reason like that which should have restrained 
Saul from violence against the Gibeonites, the oath that, 
from the time of Joshua, guarded them and their posses- 
sions, David spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, 
his friend, "because of the Lord's oath that was between 
them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul. 
But the king took the two sons of Eizpah, the daughter 
of Aiali, whom she bare unto Saul, and the five sons of 
Michal (or, rather, Mirab), the daughter of Saul, whom she 
brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite; 
and he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, 
and they hanged them in the hill he/ore the Lord; and 
they fell all seven together; and were put to death in the 
days of harvest, in the first days in the beginning of barley 

After this severe public act, in vindication of the out- 
raged rights of a subject people, whose forefathers in the 
time of Joshua, depended on being secured by the oath of the 
princes of Israel, and whose oppressors now found that the 
oath which they had daringly violated was enforced with 
divine judgments by the sleepless and resistless providence 
of Him to whom oaths appeal ; Eizpah, whom the exacted 
penalty had made childless, waited for the result of it as 
an atonement, in a manner and with a devotedness, which 
will be memorable through all time. She " took sackcloth 


MZPAH. 13" 

or rather haircloth, of which tents were commonly made, 
and spread it for her, as a tent to dwell in ; being informed 
that their bodies were not to be taken away speedily, as 
the course of the law was in ordinary cases, but were to 
continue there until God was intreated, and removed the 
present judgment. She spread it in some convenient 
place, on a rock, near adjoining, from the beginning of 
harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, 
and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on theiu 
by day, nor the beasts of the field by night," " Until 
water dropped upon them out of heaven." "Then, it seems, 
they were taken down, which was not to be done till 
God had given rain as a sign of his favour, a means to 
remove the famine which was caused by the want 
of it, — of rain." Some supposed she waited till the 
autumnal rains — a period of about five months. Of course 
it is to be presumed from her rank and position, that 
Eizpah had the assistance of servants in these severe and 
exhausting efforts of maternal tenderness. 

Having been informed of Eizpah's remarkable conduct? 
David, characteristically humane and generous, was moved 
to strong sympathy with her parental devotion, hastened 
to relieve her painful and unsparing labours, and to honour 
the remains of the dead by a public burial. 

II. The lessons. 

These events exemplify 

Incessant vigilance and unfailing remembrance 011 the 
part of divine providence : — 

The reality of divine government over men and nations : — 

The enduring obligation of oaths between nations as well 
as individuals. 

Four hundred years, with the manifold changes of 
persons in so long a time, made no change in the doom of 
Amalek, or in the sacred treaty rights of Gibeon. From 
generation to generation, even down to the time of queen 

136 EIZPAH. 

Esther, of Ahasuerus and Hainan, wrath was upon Amalek ; 
and the Lord, requiring the treaty with Gibeon to be faith- 
fully observed, punished the breach of it; first, by the 
famine on the people of Israel generally, as being at least 
conniving parties ; and then on Saul's house in particular, 
as being guilty leaders in acts of oppression. 

The sacred obligation of justice and equity in the sight 
of God, who " requireth that which is past/' especially in 
engagements made in His name. If " in the place of 
righteousness, iniquity is there," — "God shall judge the 
righteous and the wicked." — Eccles. iii. 16, 17. 

The vanity of the world was impressively manifested by 
the overwhelming reverse that had come upon the favourite 
of Saul, and the mother of two of his sons, afterwards the 
favourite of Abner, made childless and desolate by the 
stroke of a divine sentence on the oppressors of Gibeon. 

The conduct of Eizpah had probably been evil in her 
days of influence and prosperity. She was perhaps a 
partaker of the spoils of Gibeon, if not an adviser and 
instigator of the injuries they suffered. 

In these events we see Eizpah enduring severe retribu- 
tion. She had been thirty-five years a widow, and was 
compelled to learn still further the sad lessons of adversity. 
When she had nothing left but sorrow for the dead, and 
tenderness for their remains ; which she watched and 
guarded, day and night, until " water dropped upon them 
out of heaven;" heroically resolute and persistent in her 
grief and care; she appears most amiable in her lowest 
and most afflicted state. 

This pathetic and indestructible record of her sorrowful 
perseverance, is not merely a personal anecdote of an 
individual, but a token that what is so touching to the 
reader now, was precious in the sight of the Lord. 

He whose awful justice is displayed in these events is 
still true and faithful. 

KIZPAH. 137 

ITe still requires truth and equity — he will fulfil his 
threatenings as well as his promises. 

He w r hose woicl thus preserves to all generations the 
memory of a mother's tenderness, declares that His love is 
stronger than that of a mother. — Isaiah xlix. 1 5. 

Had not Rizpah, as well as David, faith to believe that 
as God had required a public retribution for the wrongs 
inflicted on the Gibeonites, a satisfaction which comprised 
the death of her two sons ; so He would signify His 
acceptance of it as an atonement by giving rain to remove 
the famine ; and did not she watch and wait in believing 
expectation of rain, as well as in maternal feeling for the 
remains of her sons ? and may we not hope that where 
there was faith, there may have been a penitent and 
sorrowful conviction of the divine justice of the providen- 
tial visitations by which the Gibeonites were avenged ? 
The sure mercies of David were not then fully displayed, 
but they even then existed ; and if this sorrowing mother 
had the broken spirit which, with a contrite heart, is 
declared a sacrifice God will not despise, her ever memo- 
rable grief and care may have been something better than 
that " sorrow of the world which worketh death." 


"And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the 
gate, and wept ; and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, 
my son Absalom ! would God I had died for thee, Absalom, my son, my 
son!"— 2 Sam. xviii. 33. 

In all history, there are few characters so remarkable and 
interesting as David. His powerful talents and exquisite 
accomplishments ; his bravery and his piety; his trans- 
gressions and his repentance; his sacred songs, — the 
undecaying monuments of inspired genius ; — and the 
wonderful vicissitude of his successes, dangers, and divine 
deliverances, alternately affect a reader of sensibility with 
delight and distress, with admiration and compassion, with 
solemn satisfaction and holy indignation, with all the 
charms of a surprising yet natural variety. It may 
perhaps be not difficult to name persons who, in some 
characteristic trait, or in some solitary achievement, were 
more eminent; but we shall rarely contemplate one dis- 
tinguished by so many shining qualities; placed in so 
many singular and trying situations; and displaying, 
through almost every part of a long and active life, so 
fine a union of the amiable and the glorious virtues. 

His being anointed in youth, as the future King of 
Israel, would give new vigour to a spirit naturally enter- 
prising; by teaching him to rely in all just undertakings 
upon the protection of that irresistible Providence whose 
designs were so plainly signified. When he became the 
Lord's anointed, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him; 
prompting him, as it did Samson and other avengers of 
Israel, to works of faith which, for the boldness in 
attempting and the might in performing them, were deeds 
of astonishment. He seems to have possessed an ardour 


that delighted to surmount difficulties and to face dangers, 
with a capacity equal to the attainment of whatever is 
within the reach of human effort. 

While thus richly endowed with those hardy powers of 
mind which give promise of temporal greatness, he was 
not less gifted with the sensibility which seeks and makes 
friends, and at once refines and increases every social 
enjoyment. In almost every stage of his pilgrimage, his 
situation and conduct bespeak the favour of the reader. 
When we have made some progress in his history, we feel 
that we have insensibly become the friends of David; that 
kindness as well as curiosity, quickens our attention to the 
events of his life, and the unfoldings of his character. 

He is at first set before us as a generous youth, of 
prepossessing appearance, with a vigorous frame, and an 
elevated mind. Even then he began to attract observation 
by pleasing tokens of future eminence. His fine suscep- 
tibility had begun to show itself in his skill upon the 
harp ; to which he probably sung the poetry of his early 
psalms ; for in the infancy of nations, music and song 
were seldom divided. If austere minds demand, why such 
things are mentioned in a sermon, it mav be sufficient to 
reply, that David's eminence in these delightful arts is 
honourably recorded in a history written under the guidance 
of the Holy Spirit. His skilful mastery of the complex 
task of a minstrel must appear to have been wonderfully 
excellent, when it is considered, that he was selected from 
the mass of his countrymen, to endeavour, by the gentle 
power of melody, to calm and soothe the gloomy frenzy 
of king Saul; and that, though the disturbance and 
melancholy of Saul's mind had a preternatural cause, yet 
in many instances, when "David took an harp, and played 
with his hand, Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the 
evil spirit departed from him." 

About the same time, we behold him the vigilant 


shepherd of his father's flock; defending the lambs from 
the most formidable beasts of prey, and acknowledging 
God as his deliverer from the lion and the bear. In the 
same spirit, the courage of faith, he stands forth as the 
champion of Israel against Goliah; and returns from the 
mighty enterprise in favour with God and man. After- 
wards we see him the chief hero of his time; celebrated 
not only for personal valour, but for skill and success as a 
commander. We then see his talents and virtues more 
severely tried by scenes of danger and perplexity ; when, 
with a handful of men, he was constrained to wander as a 
vagabond, by the causeless jealousy of his unhappy king. 
In these difficult circumstances, we see his princely 
character rendered more illustrious by adversity: we 
observe his fidelity to an unjust master, and his clemency 
to a defenceless enemy; and we perceive his ascendency 
over the minds of men, by his success in forming a 
respectable army from the followers of his exile; dis- 
contented and turbulent spirits, who, under an inferior 
leader, would have become fierce and licentious plunderers. 

At length, after many preparatory trials had proved and 
disciplined his vigorous mind, he ascended the throne, as 
the hope of his nation, and the Lord's anointed. We then 
behold him subduing or overawing the hostile states around 
him; by the blessing of God on his wise and firm govern- 
ment, raising his kingdom to great power and glory among 
the nations of the East; and preparing for his successor a 
reign of peaceful grandeur. In short, we see him as a son, 
dutiful; as a shepherd, faithful; as a soldier, brave; as a 
subject, loyal; as an exile, magnanimous; as a general, 
skilful and victorious; as a king, politic, enterprising, and 
magnificent; as a man, uniting fervent, humble piety with 
great mental superiority, and with the finest genius for the 
elegant arts. 

As a friend also, and as a relative, his personal character 


sometimes appears in such a manner, that strong hold is 
taken of our natural sympathy, before our judgment can 
examine and decide. The occasional breaking forth of his 
kind and generous emotions spreads over all his great 
qualities an affecting gracefulness ; showing in one example, 
the sublime, the pathetic, and the beautiful, not impaired, 
but made more interesting by their intimate combination. 
As a warrior and king, as a prophet and poet, he stands 
above the men of his day like Saul among the people; and 
in some of these lines of excellence is still peculiar and 
nequalled; in these respects, however, his competitorsu 
could not be numerous ; but as a friend and relative he 
surpasses the multitude in what is common to mankind. 
His friendship with Jonathan, the most celebrated in 
history, is a delightful part of his life and character. His 
lamentation for Saul and Jonathan is the first and finest 
instance on record of a poetical tribute to departed 
greatness. And his lamentation over Absalom is one of 
the most natural and affecting manifestations of the mental 
anguish of a religious parent, whose child had died in his 

It may be useful 

I. To consider this memorable lamentation, in connexion 
with the causes which occasioned it; and 

II. To point out some of the practical lessons which are 
suggested by the whole subject. 

First, it is proposed to consider David's lamentation for 
Absalom, in connexion with the series of causes which 
occasioned it. 

The mere death of Absalom is not sufficient to account 
for the extraordinary grief of his father. The manner of 
Aranon's death had been terrible; and the distress of 
David on that occasion was complicated and severe ; but 
his grief was then restrained within ordinary bounds. It 
may therefore be inferred that, if the death of Absalom 


had not been presented to David's mind in connexion with 
circumstances more" dreadful than attended the loss of 
Amnon, his feelings would not have been so intolerable and 
overpowering. The loss of Absalom was but one link of a 
long chain, the iron of which entered into David's soul. 

The general survey which we have taken of David's 
character is pleasing. It is honourable to our nature, that 
a man ever existed in whom so many excellences were 
associated. But in tracing the remote causes of his violent 
grief, we are led to melancholy scenes, to deeds of dark 
secrecy and "blood-guiltiness," (Psalm li. 14;) in which 
David, once the man after God's own heart ; David the 
wise, the pious, the noble, the humane, appears debased 
and degraded, shorn of his strength ; filled with the weak- 
ness, and covered with the shame, of miilt. During a 
season of luxurious indolence, while his generals and 
armies were active in a dangerous war, David became 
involved and entangled in a labyrinth of crimes, which 
ensnared his soul, brought upon him the most awful 
calamities, and hung over his unborn posterity the fearful 
denunciation, that the sw T ord should not depart from his 
house for ever. After contemplating the glorious tenor of 
his former life, it is distressing to read of Bathsheba and 

As these iniquitous transactions are now noticed only 
on account of their distant connexion with the text, we 
need not minutely investigate them. They were the 
causes of this awful speech of the prophet Nathan, after 
his parable of the ewe-lamb, and after David had pro- 
nounced an indignant and severe sentence against the 
supposed criminal : " Thou art the man ! Thus saith the 
Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and 
I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; and I gave thee 
thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, 
and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that 


had been too little, I would morever have given unto thee 
such and such things. Wherefore hast thou despised the 
commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight ? Thou 
hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast 
taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the 
sword of the children of Amnon. Now therefore the 
sword shall never depart from thine house : because thou 
hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the 
Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I 
will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and 
I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them 
unto thy neighbour." Though, upon David's immediate 
submission and deep repentance, the Lord put away his 
sin, and promised that he should not be put to death for 
his crime ; yet the dreadful inheritance which was entailed 
upon the long line of his descendants, and the threatened 
domestic afflictions which were mysteriously impending in 
his own time, must have pressed heavily upon his heart, 
and caused unspeakable agonies of secret remorse. 

As his first great crimes arose out of a state of improper 
indulgence, so the punishment of them seems to have been 
partly derived from a similar source : the voluptuousness 
which led him into crimes prepared the instruments of his 
chastisement. Disregarding the divine charge to kings, 
David had taken many wives ; and though the prevailing 
manners of the time and country might excuse this conduct 
in the opinion of his subjects, it was not the less a viola- 
tion of the law of God, and an invasion of the equitable 
rights of one half of the human race ; and the consequence 
was confusion and mutual slaughter among his children 
and relatives. 

With the number of wives he had taken, it was scarcely 
possible for him to have a well-regulated family ; nor was 
it likely that his children should have the same pure 
fraternal affection for each other, as if they had been born 


of the same motherland brought up under her immediate 
care. If the wives in such a family did not live apart, — 
each having a distinct residence, or a peculiar set of apart- 
ments in the palace,— they would be still more divided and 
put asunder in a common dwelling by the numerous and 
inevitable vexations and jealousies of such a household. 
Similar division and distraction would prevail amongst the 
children of different mothers. Instead of one harmonious 
family, there would virtually be as many families as 
mothers; and occasions of discord would be perpetually 
occurring. Under the constant blighting influence of such 
circumstances, that delicate and measured affection with 
which brethren and sisters generally regard each other, 
could scarcely grow up in strength and purity. This 
pernicious and unscriptural frame of David's house fur- 
nished a probable concurrent cause of Amnon's unlawful 
attachment to his half-sister Tamar. Those who have read 
the Scriptures with attention are acquainted with the 
shameful sequel. 

The same corrupt and mischievous constitution of the 
royal household which occasioned a part of Amnon's 
temptation, would have no less tendency to stir up 
Absalom to revenge. Tamar and Absalom were born of 
the same mother ; and while the children of different 
mothers would stand aloof from each other, as rivals or 
enemies ; those who had one mother would be more likely 
to feel one interest and to combine against the rest of the 
family. And whether this view of the accessary and pre- 
disposing causes be admitted or disputed, the event in this 
case was, that Absalom procured the murder of Amnon, 
and fled to his maternal grandfather, Talmai, king of 
Geshur. Thus began the stern fulfilment of the prediction 
that God would raise up evil against David out of his 
own house: Tamar was disgraced, — Amnon murdered, — 
Absalom a criminal in exile. 


After David had suffered this complicated calamity, it 
was five years before Absalom again saw his face. It 
would seem that during this interval, Chileab, the next 
elder brother after Amnon, had died; for, as soon as the 
restraint of David's displeasure was removed, we find 
Absalom assuming the airs, and practising the arts of an 
ambitious and discontented heir-apparent. Perhaps his 
mortal enmity to Amnon was sharpened by the considera- 
tion, that his own unprincipled ambition could not succeed 
while Amnon was alive. Eevenge for the violent and 
licentious injury to his sister might be the plausible 
pretence, while the great actuating purpose was the 
destruction of a rival. Absalom seems to have had a 
strong bias towards cunning and desperate villainy. 
Against Amnon, for two full years, he cherished, in silent 
subtlety, the smouldering fire of resentment ; and waited, 
with unrelenting perseverance, for a convenient opportu- 
nity to strike effectually the long premeditated blow. 
Towards David he acted with equal dissimulation, till he 
had fomented and organised an extensive conspiracy : 
then he openly seized the throne, and aimed at the life 
of his father ; and, by his foul and unnatural treason, 
astonished every honest mind in Israel. 

Apparently deserted by the majority of his deluded 
subjects, and in danger of his life from this wicked son, 
David fled with a few faithful adherents; and thus sud- 
denly returned, for a season, to that state of perilous 
wandering in which he had endured and achieved so much 
in the time of Saul. On the day of his hasty retreat in 
dejection and alarm from Jerusalem, he was brutally 
reviled by Shimei, a wealthy partisan of the house of Saul ; 
but being at this time in a penitent and devout state of 
mind, David bore these insults with exemplary patience, 
and restrained the indignation of those who would 
instantly have sacrificed the reviler. 



He had already received the discouraging intelligence 
that his chief counsellor, Ahithophel, had joined the 
conspirators; and, as David well knew, so he justly 
dreaded, Ahithophel's consummate policy. That sagacious 
traitor advised Absalom to embolden and consolidate his 
party, and to shut out all hesitation and compromise, by 
committing against his father such extreme and shameful 
injuries as no father would be expected to forgive. This 
diabolical expedient was calculated to encourage Absalom's 
followers to stand by him, by showing him irrevocably 
bound to stand by them. Ahithophel was well qualified 
to comprehend the cold and selfish views of those who 
would say, " A rebellious son may make good terms for 
himself, in case of need, by abandoning us to his father's 
vengeance." And Absalom was easily persuaded to pur- 
chase the unprincipled support of such adherents, and to 
qualify for their base suffrages, by displaying himself as 
one whom no ties could bind against his apparent interest, 
as a stranger to all natural affections and repugnancies, as 
a reckless transgressor of the divine precepts, who could 
trample on domestic as well as political morality, in the 
headlong pursuit of his desires. But this atrocious policy 
would cut both ways. The strength it gained by making 
bad men bold in favour of Absalom's rebellion, would be 
overbalanced by its driving all the good, with all the 
invincible energy of religious fortitude, to the support of 
David as the Lord's anointed. And though Absalom's 
enterprise could not be begun, nor even premeditated, but 
in deliberate opposition to the known will of God ; it was 
the very madness of folly to defy divine providence by 
publicly laying the foundations of the usurped throne in 
acts which, by divine direction, had been declared accursed 
on Mount Ebal, with the solemn "Amen" of the whole 
Israelitish nation. 

On the same day, Ahithophel proposed an immediate 


and decisive measure, which, if it had been instantly 
adopted, with suitable vigour of execution, must have been 
highly dangerous to David, and, but for divine interference, 
might have proved fatal. " Moreover Ahithophel said 
unto Absalom, Let me now choose out twelve thousand 
men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night : 
and I will come upon him while he is weary and weak- 
handed, and will make him afraid : and all the people that 
are with him shall flee ; and I will smite the king only : 
and I will bring back all the people unto thee : the man 
whom thou seekest is as if all returned : so all the people 
shall be in peace." There were no just means by which 
such an enterprise as that of Absalom's could be promoted ; 
and there can be no doubt that the course proposed by 
Ahithophel was the most politic that could be pursued in 
so bad a cause. But though Absalom, with his followers, 
applauded this bold and skilful advice, he was inclined by 
some unmentioned motive, to desire the opinion of H ushai, 
his apparent partisan, but David's secret friend, who was 
forthwith invited to the council. Being requested to give 
his judgment of the proposed expedition, Hushai instantly 
perceived with alarm the deep, clear, and formidable 
sagacity of Ahithophel's impetuous system. He saw as 
well as Ahithophel, that, while to gain time by wise delay. 
is the great resource of endangered authority, to accelerate 
a crisis by energetic rapidity is the true prudence of revolt 
after the sword is drawn. AYith astonishing promptitude 
and dexterity, he urged the most plausible objections 
against the advice which was so horribly judicious; and, 
with equal art, proposed and recommended a different set 
of measures, so contrived as to be for David's interest, but 
so skilfully misrepresented as to appear, to Absalom and 
his council, more safe and effectual for their cause than the 
plan of Ahithophel. The counsel of Hushai indirectly 
flattered Absalom's vanity, though it did no honour to his 


penetration. He had the mean talents which sufficed to 
steal the hearts of the multitude; but he wanted the 
intelligent mastery to wield so vast an instrument. The 
same vicious weakness which made him pant to seize his 
father's grandeur, was weakly pleased with the suggested 
"pride, pomp, and circumstance" of a numerous grand 
army to be commanded by himself in person. Thus the 
prompt expedition of Ahithophel was discountenanced ; 
and the only opportunity for striking a sudden and fatal 
blow was for ever lost. " For the Lord had appointed to 
defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that 
the Lord might bring evil upon Absalom." 

According to the approved (but insidious) counsel of 
Hushai, Absalom waited till the men of Israel could be 
generally assembled ; and then, making his cousin Amasa 
chief captain, he put his army in motion, and went in quest 
of his father. In the mean time, Hushai sent immediate 
intelligence to David of the measures which had been 
debated, and of the course which Absalom had determined 
to adopt. And lest Absalom should again incline to 
Ahithophel's vigorous counsel ; lest the infatuation should 
pass away by which, as Hushai saw, Absalom and his 
council were blinded to the real imprudence and danger of 
the seeming cautious and sure system he had recommended 
to them ; Hushai urgently advised David to quit the plains 
of the wilderness, where an enemy strong in numbers would 
have the full advantage of that superiority. Accordingly, 
in a few hours after Absalom's counsellors had been speak- 
ing, and before that night had ended in which Ahithophel 
proposed to finish the war, David and his faithful band 
passed the Jordan : and by placing the broad and deep 
river between himself and Absalom, gained time to retrieve 
the spirit, and increase the number, of his men; to calm 
the sudden terror, and direct the zealous aid, of his loyal 
subjects; and to choose some position where a small body 


of veterans might act with advantage against a numerous 

His conduct, at this critical period, showed the skill of 
a great commander, the magnanimity of a wise king, and 
the heart of an affectionate father. He selected the ground 
for the impending conflict; he arrayed troops inured to 
perils, accustomed to victory, and eager for action, under 
leaders of tried ability ; and sent them out with this 
charge, " Deal gently, for my sake, with the young man, 
even with Absalom." From this, it is evident, the experi- 
enced warrior firmly anticipated success ; while the father's 
heart yearned over his foolish child. At this time David 
blamed himself more than he did Absalom. He who said, 
some days before, that God had bidden Shimei curse, would 
and no doubt did, consider that, if he had not provoked 
God " to raise up evil against him out of his own house," 
divine providence and grace would have restrained 

The event justified his reliance on divine providence, on 
a just cause, and on a compact army of disciplined heroes, 
skilfully disposed under great commanders, against an 
irregular multitude, who were fighting the battle of wicked- 
ness. " The battle was in the wood of Ephraim ; " a very 
proper situation for a small army, "where the people of 
Israel were slain before the servants of David, and there 
was there a great slaughter that day of twenty thousand 
men. For the battle was there, scattered over the face of 
all the country : and the wood devoured more people that 
day than the sword devoured." The embarrassment the 
wood occasioned to Absalom's tumultuous myriads, vas a 
more extensive and effectual cause of their destruction, 
than the swords of David's men. 

But David was disappointed in his earnest desire that 
his son's life might be spared. In the helpless confusion 
of his routed army, " Absalom met the servants of David. 

1 50 ABSALOM. 

And Absalom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under 
the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught 
hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the 
heaven and the earth; and the mule that was under him 
went away And a certain man saw it, and told Joab, 
and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak." 
Joab was a brave soldier ; a most resolute and able chief- 
tain ; a great man in an age of great men : one who, 
besides his general vigour and capacity, had a deep, latent 
energy, to be drawn forth when occasion should require ; 
and such consummate self-command, that, amidst the fiery 
rage and bitter triumphs of .civil war, he had always the 
cool quickness to discern the moment when enough was 
done for victory, and when, by sound of trumpet, he might 
recall the pursuers from useless slaughter. But his life 
was wicked, and his heart intensely selfish. He probably 
thought David's charge in favour of his parricidal son, an 
instance of foolish and dangerous tenderness. Perhaps, 
too, as Joab had mainly promoted Absalom's return from 
Geshur, and his subsequent restoration to favour, he might 
feel strong displeasure against him, for having made so vile 
a use of those good offices. Or Joab's calculation might 
be, that if Absalom survived his defeat, he would be 
forgiven by the indulgent father who had so anxiously 
commended him to the forbearance of his great captains ; 
that, ultimately Absalom forgiven might survive and suc- 
ceed his father ; in which case those who had crushed his 
rebellion would have every thing to dread from his revenge- 
ful temper. And Joab appears to have been determined 
that, whoever was king, he would be chief captain ; and 
therefore, that the violent prince, whom he had conquered 
in a great battle, should not live to dispose of high command 
as David's successor. On this principle his sudden and 
effectual violence against Abner, Absalom, and Amasa, and 
his rash league with Adonijah, are accounted for. What- 

ABSALOM. 1 5 i 

ever motives swayed him in this crisis, his resolution was 
soon taken. After the man who told him of Absalom's 
defenceless situation had replied with honest warmth against 
the suggestion, that he should have slain the king's son, 
Joab said, " I may not tarry thus with thee. And he took 
three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart 
of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak. 
And ten young men that bore Joab's armour compassed 
about, and smote Absalom, and slew him." They added 
such wounds "as would have killed him had he been alive." 
Two swift footmen were then dispatched to David, with 
news of the victory. One of them had with difficulty 
obtained Joab's leave to run on this errand, and appears to 
have been actuated by motives of considerate kindness to 
the anxious king and father. For he contrived, partly by 
taking a better road, to outrun his fellow, and delivered his 
message with such reserve, that, while he assured David of 
the overthrow of his enemies, he left him prepared by sus- 
pense to hear of Absalom's death. As soon as he came within 
hearing, he shouted the brief and full annunciation, "All 
is well 1 " When he arrived he fell down before the king, 
with his face to the earth, and said, (like a good man, as 
David had just before described him,) "Blessed be the 
Lord thy God, which hath delivered up the men that lifted 
up their hand against my lord the king." David eagerly 
enquired, " Is the young man Absalom safe ? " Ahimaaz 
answered evasively, that he saw a great tumult, when 
Joab sent him and Cushi, but knew not the cause. Soon 
afterwards, Cushi arrived, to whom Joab had said, " Go tell 
the king what thou hast seen." He approached, calling as 
he ran, " Tidings, my lord the king : for the Lord hath 
avenged thee this day of all them that rose up against thee." 
To him also the king said, and probably with increased 
perturbation, "Is the young man Absalom safe?" And 
Cushi answered, like a courtier, with smooth and delicate 


circumlocution, "The enemies of my lord the king, and all 
that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man 
is/' Then with admirable simplicity, the historian says, 
"And the king was much moved, and went up to the 
chamber over the gate, and wept ; and as he went, thus he 
said, my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom ! would 
God I had died for thee, Absalom, my son, my son !" It 
is added, that "the victory that day was turned into 
mourning unto all the people : for the people heard say 
that day how the king was grieved for his son." David 
had gained a battle, but he had lost a child. He had 
quelled a great rebellion, and apparently finished a civil war; 
but by the terrible light of Nathan's prophecy, he saw before 
him an indefinite remainder of judicial requitals for his sin 
against Uriah, — a lengthening prospect of future calamities, 
which would temporally visit the iniquities of the father 
upon the children. And those who wondered at his grief, 
as extravagant and unaccountable, knew not how intimately 
the* awful end of Absalom was associated in David's mind 
with the bitter remembrance of his own great sins, and 
with the inevitable, intolerable reflection, how different the 
whole case of the son might have been if the fatheT had 
kept himself unstained with uncleanness and innocent 
blood. If at one season of alluring temptation, he had only 
turned away his eyes and his mind, and renewed his 
strength by waiting upon God, what a dreadful series of 
crimes and miseries had been prevented! But he had 
sown the wind, and was reaping the whirlwind ! For that 
time, to all appearance, David had secured his crown ; but 
for ever, to all appearance, Absalom had lost his soul ! 

II. It was proposed, in the second place, to point out 
some of the practical lessons which are suggested by the 
whole subject. 

1. The event which David lamented came upon him as 
a part of a series of strict and terrible divine retributions. 

ABSALOM. 1 53 

David himself acknowledged the punitive character of 
some of the preceding disorders, when he said of Shimei, 
" Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh 
my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? " 
Which implies, not that David supposed God to have 
commanded Shimei to curse; but that he viewed the 
insolence of the Benjamite, and the more grievous 
violences in his family and kingdom, as permitted 
consequences of a judicial withholding of that protecting, 
efficacious, invisible control, which had previously guarded 
his children, and chained his enemies. How many heavy 
calamities did Providence bring upon him as the avowed 
punishment of his sin against Uriah ! How fully was the 
threatening verified, " I will raise up evil against thee out 
of thine own house ! " And his own sentence on the 
supposed crimiDal accused in Nathan's parable was 
executed, with one exception in favour of his own life, 
which the prophet made at the time. Nathan left the 
other parts of David's own decree unrepealed. David had 
promptly decided that the rich man should restore fourfold; 
and four of his own sons were taken away by awful and 
untimely deaths. His first child by Bathsheba was 
stricken by the unseen hand of God; Amnon by Absalom; 
Absalom by Joab; Adonijah by Benaiah, at the command 
of Solomon. Through a monstrous "evil raised up 
against him out of his own house," he became a distressed 
wanderer in his own dominions ; exposed to hunger and 
weariness ; surrounded by the snares of treachery ; per- 
plexed and harassed with anxieties and suspicions; 
while his kingdom was distracted and convulsed, and the 
foundations of his throne were shaken. His sins, with his 
judgment in the case presented in Nathan's parable, and 
the dreadful harvest of troubles which followed, furnish a 
striking exemplification of that law of divine retribution 
afterwards declared by David's Son and Lord : " For with 

1 54 ABSALOM. 

what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged ; and with 
what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." 
Matthew vii. 2. He had dishonoured Uriah, and was 
himself dishonoured tenfold ; with an aggravation which 
the prophecy threatened : " For thou didst it secretly ; but 
I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun." 
" I will do/' is an expression which evidently cannot be 
taken literally; for God did not do it, though the event 
took place; nor did He compel the doing of it; He foresaw 
what the counsel of Ahithophel and the conduct of 
Absalom would be, if not hindered; and was as just 
towards those hardened sinners in suffering them to work 
part of their wicked will, as He was towards David 
in permitting them to avenge Uriah, by deeds which they 
perpetrated with other views ; and as He is at all times 
in not preventing all the evil that sinners are inclined to 
commit. David had practised deceit and baseness against 
Uriah ; deceit and baseness were practised against himself : 
by Amnon, Ahithophel, and Absalom, he was deceived to 
his hurt, in the most egregious manner ; and their returns 
for his confiding kindness displayed the lowest depth of 
baseness. He had contrived to commit murder by the 
sword of strangers ; and by the hands of his own relatives 
the innocent blood was avenged. His own person was 
mercifully passed over ; but for the life of Uriah four of 
his sons were slain, all his posterity threatened, and the 
threatening fulfilled from age to age in the dreadful 
massacres of his descendants. Witness Jehoram's murder 
of his six brethren ; the slaughter of all Jehoram's elder 
children by a predatory band of Arabians, with forty-two 
of his male relations, by the hand and orders of Jehu ; the 
destruction of all the seed royal except Joash, by Athaliah; 
the assassination of Joash, Amaziah, and Amon, by con- 
spirators; the mortal wound of Josiah in battle; the 
slaying of Zedekiah's sons before his eyes; with the 


Eoman proscription of all the known descendants of 
David. In these retributions, who does not see, "good 
measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over!" 
May a due consideration of them dispose us to stand in 
awe of this revealed rule of divine providence, " With vjhat 
judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what 
measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again ! " 

2. These deep sorrows of David exemplify the malignant 
energy of sin in destroying temporal happiness, even when 
divine mercy averts the penalty of wrath to oome. After 
laying open the subtle and guilty precautions, by which 
David sought to conceal his first crime, the sacred historian 
says, " But the thing that" David had done displeased the 
Lord." He had used dark and desperate means to screen 
himself from human censure. The brave and honest 
Hittite, who must soon have become aware of the hateful 
injury he had received, was silenced by death ; and the 
manner of removing him was so dexterously planned as to 
appear accidental ; the stratagem was so refined that the 
plausible artifice concealed itself. Even if David had 
been in a less exalted station, his adultery could hardly 
have been prosecuted to conviction in a human court ; 
because Uriah, who had the chief right of prosecution, 
had fallen by the weapons of the Ammonites ; and the 
first wanton injury was rendered dubious, even as a matter 
of rumour, because some steps had been taken to make the 
child of Bathsheba be supposed the offspring of Uriah. 
Uriah's death did not appear to ho, murder, and there would 
have been extreme difficulty in proving, by human means, 
that he was murdered, or that David was his murderer. 
The only witness who could have proved the crime, and 
confronted the criminal, was the wicked tool and 
accomplice, Joab, who was bound by his own interest 
to be discreetly silent. Bathsheba had gone through the 
customary form of mourning as a widow. " And when the 


mourning was p&st, David sent and fetched her to his 
house, and she became his wife." Appearances were thus 
saved. That Uriah had fallen in battle, would not seem 
extraordinary to those who, at the gates of Eabbah, were 
ignorant of any secret orders from Jerusalem ; nor would 
the news of his death excite wonder at Jerusalem ; being 
reported, along with the fall of some of his fellow soldiers 
in the same conflict, as part of the general tidings of war. 
And the king's having married Uriah's beautiful widow, 
would be more likely to bring censure on Bathsheba than 
on David, as long as their previous intercourse was 
unsuspected. Thus was this dark affair covered with a 
most specious and finished mask, and spread over with 
the colours of decency to meet the public eye. But all 
this vigilant and politic management was unavailing to 
prevent the temporal wretchedness, personal, domestic, 
and public, which was the natural fruit of David's sin. 
The adulterer said, " No eye shall see me ; " but there 
was the all-penetrating eye of Him, to whom the royal 
Psalmist sung, " Whither shall I go from thy Spirit ? 
or whither shall I flee from thy presence ? If I say, surely 
the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be 
light about me." " Yea, the darkness hideth not from 
thee ; but the night shineth as the day : the darkness and 
the light are both alike to thee." Psalm cxxxix. 7, etc. 
" The thing that David had done displeased " Him, whose 
" eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his 
goings. There is no darkness or shadow of death, where 
the workers of iniquity may hide themselves." Job xxxiv. 
21, 22. From this time, David's temporal happiness was 
gone. An interval of guilty care and awful impenitence 
was followed by a season of intense remorse. During 
these two periods, the light of his soul was overcast with 
shadows, clouds, and thick darkness. And when he 
returned to the fear of the Lord, he was taught that 

ABSALOM. 1 5 7 

" because by this deed," secret as he thought it, he had 
"given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to 
blaspheme," therefore the displeasure of the Holy One of 
Israel must be manifested by visible and severe chastise- 
ments. The death of Bathsheba's infant was but the 
first, and the sudden and hopeless destruction of Absalom 
was but the heaviest, of many dreadful strokes, in which 
David felt the scourge of Grod. The sin, and shame, 
and misery of his children, which pierced his heart with 
sorrow upon sorrow, were so mysteriously linked with the 
remembrance of his own fall, as to be so many sharp 
arrows to his conscience ; renewing again and again with 
new pangs and sores, the anguish of his wounded spirit. 
Such terrible connexion had his sorrows with his con- 
conscience, when he cried, "Would God I had died for 
thee, Absalom, my son, my son ! " Many calculate, in 
the hour of gay delusion, that they may first sin like 
David, and then, like him, repent and be forgiven. Let 
them only weigh his transient and troubled pleasure, 
with the lasting remorse, the shame, the perplexity, which 
followed ; and with the guilt and ruin of Amnon and 
Absalom, the troubles of his kingdom, his doomed 
posterity, his stinging consciousness that all these 
envenomed evils had their source in his own sin; and 
then let the tempted count the cost of imitating his sin, 
even if they could also ensure the remedy of grace to 
imitate his repentance. 

3. David's grief for Absalom drew much of its bitterness 
from his own faults as a parent. His character as a father 
has lights and shadows. That he felt all the tenderness 
and strength of paternal affections, is evident from the 
text, and from other portions of his history It is also 
apparent that he understood and acknowledged, and in 
some instances practised, the religious duties which belong 
to the head of a family. His written resolves were, "I 


will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. I will walk 
within my house with a perfect heart. Mine eyes shall be 
upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with 
me : he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me. 
He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house ; 
he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight/' And 
some parts of his household practice were right. From 
one passage in his life, it appears that his acts of worship 
were not limited to the public services of the tabernacle, 
and the sacred solitude of the closet, but were also intro- 
duced into domestic life, and formed part of his home 
engagements. After he had been attending at the head of 
his people, upon the joyful solemnity of bringing the ark 
into Jerusalem, it is said that "he returned to bless his 
house;" the obvious meaning of which is, that he went 
home to pray for and with his family. But there are other 
circumstances which betray too great indulgence to his 
children. When Tamar expostulated with Amnon, she 
teasoned on the supposition that his father could scarcely 
refuse him anything. By the want of such just visitation 
of Amnon's offence, as a king and father might have 
administered, Absalom was left in possession of a strong 
pretence for private revenge; and was taught, when plotting 
the destruction of Amnon, to hope that, like him, he should 
come off easily, if he could avoid the first effects of his 
father's displeasure. And the permission Absalom received 
to return, after a short exile, without any greater punish- 
ment than a temporary exclusion from his father's court 
and presence, was too likely to confirm his arrogant and 
licentious presumption that, as the king's son, he was 
above law. And after all David's bitter experience of the 
fruits of blind indulgence, it is written concerning his next 
son Adonijah, that "his father had not displeased him at 
any time in saying, Why hast thou done so ?" The natural 
affection of parents should, indeed, be manifested, as well 


as felt ; but so manifested as to appear always under the 
control of conscience. Parents should restrain the depraved 
inclinations of their children, from infancy upwards ; mak- 
ing due allowance for mere childishness, but firmly repress- 
ing the beginnings of bad habits, and never conniving at 
sin. Those who connive, either from selfish indolence or 
weak fondness, may find a terrible re-action from their 
accusing conscience, when, in some season of severe 
bereavement, they reap the fruits of parental unfaithful- 
ness, like him who cried, "Would God, I had died for thee, 
Absalom, my son, my son !" 

4. It is easy to perceive that David's great sins as a man 
were the causes, in part, of his occasionally weak and bad 
government as a father and king, which had so calamitous 
a result in the case of Absalom. After recording Amnon's 
abominable conduct, the sacred history says, " But when 
David heard all these things, he was very wroth." And. 
perhaps his first thought was, that, though the trans- 
gressor was his own first-born son, the presumptuous sin 
should be visited with some sharp and exemplary punish- 
ment. But his second thought would probably be, Is it 
for thee to chastise youthful licentiousness ? Art not thou 
(the father of many princes, the husband of many wives) 
an adulterer? When his surviving sons returned, after 
the assassination of Amnon and the flight of Absalom, 
" they lifted up their voice and wept : and the king also 
and all his servants wept very sore/' Had Absalom failed 
in his attempt to escape, and been suddenly brought a 
prisoner to his father, in the midst of this sore weeping, 
the first emotion of David, as of all around him, might 
have been indignation against the murderer; and his first 
word, a cry for justice on the audacious criminal. But 
how could he have punished Absalom without first 
hearing him? And if he had heard him, though the 
guilty prince might not have dared to recriminate, the 


conscience of the king and father must have spoken 
inwardly, pleading, Why was the punishment of Amnon 
left to the rash hand of Tamar's brother ? And when was 
the murderer of Uriah brought to justice ? It was hardly 
necessary for Absalom to have fled to Geshur. In any 
station, the commission of sin is like the scattering of 
sparks, or the letting out of waters. When the deed is 
done, who can trace its latest consequences ? Had David 
kept himself from injuring Uriah, Amnon would probably 
have stood in awe of his father's pure character : Absalom 
would then have had neither provocation nor pretext to 
slay his brother ; and, being saved from that crime, would 
not have been emboldened by impunity, till, cut off as a 
rebel by the hand of Joab, he was lamented by his father 
in bitter words, that will speak David's parental misery 
to the end of time. Had the first link of this endless 
chain been withholden, had David checked his wandering 
heart, what a complicated series of crimes and agonies 
would have been prevented ! Sin in high stations is like 
the loosening of snow-wreaths on high mountains ; where, 
the shaking having once commenced on some cloud-capt 
eminence, the inevitable avalanges roll down, with accu- 
mulating magnitude and accelerated velocity, till the 
thundering and flying ruin falls with irresistible weight 
on the valleys below. 

5. The immediate cause of David's violent sorrow, was 
an instance of the swift and sure punishment of filial 
impiety. The first commandment with promise, as recited 
in Deuteronomy, says, "Honour thy father and thy 
mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee ; 
that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well 
with thee, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth 
thee." "We may therefore conclude," says a learned 
commentator (Dr. Adam Clarke), " that it will go ill with 
the disobedient ; and there is no doubt, that the untimely 


deaths of many young persons were the judicial conse- 
quences of their disobedience to their parents." Other 
wise persons have thought, that the promise implies a 
corresponding threatening. In Absalom's case, this prin- 
ciple of judicial providence was fearfully displayed. The 
punishment of the rebellious son overtook his unfinished 
crime. The father whose throne he seized, and whose life 
he pursued, longed to receive him to mercy; but divine 
justice permitted Joab to intercept the proposed clemency ; 
and Absalom was driven beyond all human jurisdiction, 
even into the presence of the Judge Eternal, as one taken 
in his sin, " in the very act." 

6. The death of Absalom spoke unutterable things to 
David on the awfulness of dying in sin. Recourse must 
be had to very bold conjecture, concerning supposed peni- 
tential changes in Absalom's mind, while he hung alive in 
the tree, before we can obtain a shadow of hope relating to 
his everlasting state. A few hardened profligates have 
appeared hopefully softened at their last hour ; some have 
even given credible signs of conversion; but those who 
have been allured, by the great prizes of ambition, into the 
dark and crooked ways of that insidious policy which 
counts enormous injustice among its calculated means, 
have generally died as they lived : and though some of 
them have been driven by remorse to superstitious austeri- 
ties, they have still, by holding fast the fruits of sin, 
betrayed the unsoundness of their seeming repentance. 
There is not one fact in Absalom's history which can 
encourage us to class his dreadful end with the happy 
exceptions. Had he sought mercy with all his heart, even 
at the last tremendous hour, the promise would not have 
been broken, which says, " But if from thence thou shalt 
seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek 
him with all thy heart, and with all thy soul/' But where 
is the evidence, or the ground of probable inference, that 



he would or did 'so seek the Lord? The hopelessness of 
his case arises, not from any impossibility of mercy being 
extended to so great a sinner, but from the utter improba- 
bility of his having sought mercy, as a true penitent, with 
all his heart. After having attained a premature ripeness 
of guilt; after a life of aggravated, presumptuous, and 
unnatural wickedness, he was "suddenly destroyed, and 
that," apparently, "without remedy." We see nothing like 
true repentance in his life; and after such a course of 
daring impiety, the sorrows which overwhelmed him when 
hopelessly entangled in the tree, were likely to be such as 
rebellious angels feel. "Happy is the man that feareth 
alway ; but he that hardeneth his heart, shall fall into 
mischief." Absalom might perhaps be one of those fools, 
described by his inspired father, who have said in their 
hearts, "There is no God;" or, if there is, He "hath for- 
gotten; He hideth His face; He will never see it." If 
k such were his vain thoughts, how miserably did his pre- 
sumption deceive him ! The invisible Avenger, whom he 
set at nought, permitted him to be stricken, as a wicked 
man, "in the open sight of others." Or perhaps the 
destroyer suggested to him, as to thousands, that he might 
enjoy the splendid gains of guilty ambition, through the 
prime of life ; and avoid the wrath to come, by a penitent 
old age. If such were the representations which deter- 
mined him, how bitterly was he tantalized by the fa.ther of 
lies ! He had a mountain of guilt, without its gains ; and 
his monstrous life was cut short by a horrible death, with- 
out either old age or repentance. Could we have seen the 
graceful prince, who had no blemish from the sole of his 
foot to the crown of his head, and who was "praised for 
beauty " above all the youth of Israel ; could we have seen 
his countenance when his flight was intercepted by the 
servants of David, when his mule left him dreadfullv 
suspended betwixt heaven and earth, and when Joab 


approaching with three darts in his hand, aimed the mortal 
thrust at his heart ; we should have seen the perfection of 
beauty violently transformed into the express image of 
terror and despair. If ever there have been moments that, 
by the rapidity and intensity of dreadful thoughts, at once 
glancing through the guilty past and the boundless future, 
have seemed to involve a concentrated infinitude of misery; 
such were the last moments of Absalom. What a reckon- 
ing, what new pangs, what hideous prospects, might await 
his departing soul, are among the secrets of that hidden 
world which the living cannot penetrate. 

But while we are thinking and speaking of Absalom, he 
is still existing. For nearly three thousand years the 
beautiful body which Joab pierced has decayed in the 
dust ; but the surviving spirit of Absalom, in some part of 
the creation of Gk>d, is now present ; conscious, intelligent, 
full of undying remembrances, and incessant anticipations. 
If he gave up the ghost in a state of impenitent despair, 
such has his state been, seeking rest, but finding none; 
while successive empires have been gradually founded and 
strengthened, enlarged and adorned, weakened and wasted. 
While mighty Babylon was rising, and Mneveh was ruin- 
ing ; while mightier Borne was training its iron people, 
trying different forms of government, shattering the 
sceptres of rival nations, extending its sway over the 
fairest countries of three continents, prescribing limits to 
its own vast ambition, and at length seeking unsafe repose 
under the shadow of its hoary grandeur, till it became a 
new Babylon amidst ruins, under the name of the Eternal 
City; during all those slow revolutions of ages, while the 
silent, daily touches of time have been crumbling temples 
and exhausting life, through the succession of a hundred 
generations, the lost spirit of Absalom has been living on. 
While the children's children of Absalom's armed multi- 
tude have been scattered over the earth, as outcast, wan- 


dering, suffering' Jews; the spirit of the prince, who stole 
the hearts of their fathers, and led them in rash rebellion, 
has never slumbered, nor been quiet, nor tasted oblivion. 
If, as is apparent, " the wicked " was " driven away in his 
wickedness," such, without hope, he remains ; still waiting 
without hope, until the pale and bloody corse, which was 
buried beneath a heap of stones in the wood of Ephraim, 
shall be made to stand up, with Amnon and Ahithophel, 
with Joab and his men, before the great white throne, at 
the summons of the last trumpet. 

7 Well might the godly father cry, " Would God, I had 

died for thee, Absalom, my son, my son !" These 

expressions would have been weak and foolish, had he felt 

only the blind sorrow of a worldly parent. But, in this 

instance, natural grief was rendered more intense by the 

light and love of the spiritual man. It is no substantial 

objection against a life of faith, that, in this world, like 

many other sources of enlarged knowledge and refined 

^sensibility, it increases some of our painful feelings. Had 

David's own heart been dark and impenitent, he might 

have felt less grief and horror at Absalom's being cut off 

in a headlong course of presumptuous sin : but the actual 

case of Absalom must have remained the same, if his 

father had been insensible or heedless of his ruin. David 

doubtless thought of his son's soul, when he exclaimed 

that, if it had pleased God to order it so, he would have 

died to save Absalom alive. He wished his wicked son to 

have had time and means to repent. Though but a 

disciple of Moses, David's mild and humble behaviour, 

during the vexations of this dangerous and harassing 

revolt, had been such as we might expect from a follower 

of the meek and lowly Jesus. At that time, he could 

have walked through the valley of the shadow of death, 

and feared no evil. Had he died, he would have had 

hope in death ; but in Absalom's death, he saw no hope ! 

ABSALOM. 10 5 

You who are religious parents, can comprehend David's 
feelings, and sympathize with his sorrow. What can 
afflict a pious mind with so sore a wound, as the sudden 
death of a wicked child ? ye Christian parents, lay 
these things to heart ! Strive while you may, for the 
salvation of your children. Let not your faith concerning 
their salvation, be a faith without works. Let them not 
only hear your prayers, and warnings, and counsels, and 
affectionate exhortations; but let them also behold in your 
conduct, a pervading, paramount concern for their spiritual 
and eternal welfare; a holy affection which dreads their 
hazard of inward contamination ; a judgment which 
"esteems all" God's "precepts, concerning all things," to 
be right ; a rectified will which, without wavering, prefers 
even want and reproach, with a good conscience, to all the 
transitory enjoyments of a worldly mind ; and steadily 
pursues the interests of the soul and of eternity, before all 
the delights of the body, and all the vanities and blandish- 
ments of things temporal. 

And you, who have godly parents, consider these things. 
You may die before them. Bereaved by a sudden stroke, 
they may follow you, with heavy hearts, to your early 
grave. Would you have them tortured with hopeless 
anguish, through the fear of your having died in your 
sins ? You may perhaps see them die : embitter not their 
last moments. Let them not go hence with an awful 
presentiment of eternal separation from their impenitent 
children. If you recoil from the supposition that your 
Christian parents should either depart full of fears for you, 
or survive you without hope in your death, consider that- 
even their interest in your salvation is but secondary. 
You have the first and deepest interest in your own ever- 
lasting well-being. Love your own souls. Be your own 
friends. Stand afar off from the paths of seducing tempta- 
tion. Seek and serve Him, who is still, as in the days of 


David and Absalom, a holy and a jealous God, who 
"judgeth the righteous," but "is angry with the wicked 
every day." "Hell and destruction are before" Him ; 
" how much more then the hearts of the children of men P 
His "hand shall find out all" His "enemies;" His "right 
hand shall find out those that hate" Him. He "shall 
make them as a fiery oven in the time of " His anger : the 
Lord shall swallow them up in His wrath, and the fire 
shall devour them." But His gracious will is> in these 
better days of David's Son and Lord, that sinners repent ; 
that penitents came to Christ, believing with their hearts 
unto righteousness; that believers walk in the light of 
faith, and in the ways of humble, joyful, loving obedience. 
" For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath 
appeared unto all men ; teaching us that denying ungodli- 
ness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, 
and godly, in this present world ; looking for that blessed 
Jiope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our 
Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us, that He 
might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Him- 
self a peculiar people, zealous of good works." 



"And Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned to his house in peace to 
Jerusalem. And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and 
said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them 
that hate the Lord ? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord. 
Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken 
away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God.'' 
—2 Chronicles xix. 1, 2, 3. 

In the history of various nations, there have been bright 
ages, distinguished and glorious times, when great events 
and great men have been produced in clusters or con- 

Among the ancient Greeks, there were the successive 
splendours of the ages of Themistocles, Pericles, and 
Demosthenes. Among the Romans, there was the Augus- 
tine age, illustrated by the celebrated names of Pompey 
and Csesar, Cicero and Virgil. In modern Europe, there 
was the latter part of the fifteenth and the commencement 
of the following century, the age of Columbus and Luther, 
illustrated by a host of men of learning, genius and 
enterprise, too many to be enumerated ; a period in which 
four of the greatest events of modern history were nearly 
simultaneous ; the invention of printing, the revival of 
learning, the discovery of the western world, and the 
Reformation. In France, the age of Louis the fourteenth, 
was, in some respects, highly distinguished. In England, 
the times of Elizabeth, Anne, and the last one hundred 
years, are those to which the greatest names of our country 

In the times of God's ancient people, there were some 
periods marked by the numbers and influence of men 


eminently great. and good; with dreary intervals of general 
wickedness, meanness, weakness and misery. 

Before the Law there was the venerable succession of 
Holy Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Job. 

The first shining period under the Law, includes the 
times of Moses and Aaron, Joshua and Caleb, and the 
elders who outlived them. 

The next was the long and bright day of Samuel, David 
and Solomon, comprising nearly two hundred years, — the 
best in the Jewish historv. 

The best periods in about four hundred years following, 
from the death of Solomon to the captivity, are those of 
Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah. 

After the captivity there were two remarkable and 
superior ages, — that of Ezra and Nehemiah, and that of 
the Maccabean brothers. 

The last and best day of the second temple was the time 
of the Fore-runner, the Saviour, and the Apostles. 

Each of these great landmarks of time in the sacred 
history was made glorious by the talents, virtues, and 
usefulness of worthies whom God raised up, and whom 
His Spirit ennobled and animated, — men who honoured 
God above all, and whom He has delighted to honour, by 
placing their names in His everlasting word, like stars in 
the sparkling firmament. 

The times of good Josiah were continued into those of 
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The age of Hezekiah was 
that of the prophets Hosea, Micah, Zephaniah, Nahum, 
and Isaiah. The contemporaries of Jehoshaphat were 
the prophets Hanani, Jehu, Jahaziel, and Eliezer, in 
his own kingdom; and Micaiah, Elijah and Elisha, in 
the kingdom of the ten tribes; with the faithful priest 
Jehoiada, and other men of renown in affairs of state, of 
war, and of religion, whose names are recorded in the 
sacred books. 


One thing which is remarkable in these books, — is the 
unsparing impartiality, with which the faults and mistakes 
of the best men are stated. Jehoshaphat himself is set 
before us in the text as being reproved and threatened 
for grievous inconsistency. 

It is generally admitted, that real and prevailing good- 
ness of heart and life, may exist along with a proportion 
of errors and inconsistencies. 

Individual cases are sometimes judged with harsh 
severity ; but too large an allowance for infirmities is often 
made both by the church and the world, especially in 
estimating the extent and force of their own moral 
obligations. Their views of unavoidable infirmity and of 
the mercy extended to it, lead to this dangerous mistake — 
that the Gospel is looked upon as a diluted or mitigated 

But neither worldly nor serious men are, on the whole, 
sufficiently awake to the fact, — that the general sincerity 
of an inconsistent good man, does not disarm his practical 
errors of their natural powers of mischief. 

Those causes or means of evil which his neglect or 
unfaithfulness allows to be put in motion and set to work, 
will move on like a discharged missile, or work on like 
leaven, regardless of his after thoughts, his better wishes, 
or his untimely regrets. 

Through a long succession, through a continuous chain of 
effects, independent of his wishes or his remorse, they will 
exert an influence, according to their own nature, according 
to the circumstances and dispositions amidst which they 

The eye of a feeble or unskilful archer, may follow his 
arrow in its flight, as if he could still choose or change, or 
accelerate its course; but the shaft which has left the 
string obeys that impulse alone, which it received at the 
instant of its departure, heedless of the suspended breath, 


the eager looks, or the vain regrets of him who still holds 
the bow. 

A good man's inconsiderate mistakes, or temporary and 
transient unfaithfulness, may even sometimes be as hurtful 
as a wicked man's deliberate malignity ; being strengthened 
for efficiency in evil, by the good of his general character. 
It is a plain instance of this — that if a man esteemed for 
his wisdom and integrity, should, through misapprehension 
or inadvertance, give an inaccurate and injurious account of 
the conduct of any person ; the consequent stain on that 
person's reputation will be more deep, extensive and 
lasting, through the high character of him who made the 
wrong statement, 

Perhaps there is not a more likely means to put good 
men on their guard against unhappy inconsistencies — than 
by laying open the case of an eminent saint, whose 
infirmities and occasional mistakes struck deep root in the 
affairs and interests of his family and kingdom, and of the 
ohnrch of God, and brought forth fruit and seed according 
to their evil nature, in the face of the world, and through 
a wide range of time and space. The mischief of a bad 
man's smaller faults passes almost unnoticed amidst the 
mightier evils caused by his great sins ; while the faults of 
a good man, and their bitter consequences stand out dis- 
tinguishable in contrast with his general excellence. 

The preceding chapter states that on occasion of a visit 
which Jehoshaphat made to Ahab in Samaria, Ahab per- 
suaded Jehoshaphat to accompany him to battle at Eamoth 
Gilead. There Ahab received his death-wound, and the 
first verse of this chapter states that "Jehoshaphat 
returned to his house in peace at Jerusalem." 

Then the history goes on saying, " And Jehu the son of 
Hanani the seer, went out to meet him, and said to king 
Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love 
them that hate the Lord ? therefore ,'is wrath upon thee 


from before the Lord. Nevertheless there are good things 
found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out 
of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God." 
This impressive passage leads us to consider 

I. The mixed character and inconsistent conduct of 
Jehoshaphat ; 

II. The consequent mixture of judgment and mercy in 
the dealings of God with him ; 

III. The practical instruction suggested by his history. 
]. In his character and government there was much 

that was decidedly and enimently good. 

(1.) His public and exemplary adherence to the lawful 
worship and service of God, and his general piety and 
integrity, are tacitly implied by the reproach, " Shouldest 
thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate me ? " 
They are distinctly recorded in the sacred history in several 
places. 1 Kings xxii. 43. "And he walked in all the 
ways of Asa his father; he turned not aside from it, doing 
that which was right in the eyes of the Lord : nevertheless 
the high places were not taken away; for the people 
offered and burnt incense yet in the high places." 2 Kings 
iii. 14. "And Elisha said, As the Lord of hosts liveth, 
before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the 
presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not 
look toward thee, nor see thee." 2 Chronicles xvii. 3-6. 
" And the Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked 
in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto 
Baalim," etc. His son was reproached by Elijah for acting 
contrary to his good example. 2 Chronicles xxi. 12-15. 
" And there came a writing to him from Elijah the prophet, 
saying, Thus saith the Lord God of David thy father, 
Because thou hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat 
thy father, nor in the ways of Asa king of Judah, But hast 
walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and hast made 
Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring, 


like to the whoredoms of the house of Ahab, and also 
hast slain thy brethren of thy father's house, which were 
better than thyself: Behold, with a great plague will the 
Lord smite thy people, and thy children, and thy wives, 
and all thy goods : And thou shalt have great sickness of 
thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of thy 
sickness day by day." 

(2.) His zeal as a reformer of abuses and corruptions in 
religion, and his sincerity or heartiness in seeking God, are 
expressly commended by the prophet in the latter part of 
the text. 

(3.) His habitual acknowledgment of God, in matters of 
hazard or perplexity, appears incidentally from his conduct 
relative to the expedition to Ramoth Gilead, in the 
country of Moab, and when his country was invaded, 
(2 Kings iii. 11,) " Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a 
prophet of the Lord, that we may enquire of the Lord by 
him ?" 2 Chronicles xx. 3, 4. "And Jehoshaphat feared, 
and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast 
throughout all Judah. And Judah gathered themselves 
together, to ask help of the Lord : even out of all the cities 
of Judah, they came to seek the Lord." 

(4.) His humility and child-like obedience, under divine 
rebuke, appear by his conduct after this message of God 
had been delivered to him, and by his refusal to renew 
his joint naval enterprise (after God had destroyed his 
vessels by a storm) when solicited to do so by the king of 
Israel, Ahaziah the son of Ahab. 

(5.) His judgment, vigour, and integrity as a ruler appear 
from several parts of his history. His goodness was not 
that of a weak, good man. Early in his reign he made and 
executed the most judicious, practical arrangements for the 
public security, and the moral and religious instruction of 
his people in all the cities of his kingdom. (See xvii. 7, 9.) 
But his care and zeal for religion were not, like the devo- 


tions of superstitious or enthusiastic princes, connected 
with neglect and imprudence in his administration of 
government. While his religious reforms were in progress 
he prepared treasures for public purposes, built cities and 
fortresses, and greatly increased the numbers and the 
orderly equipment and discipline of his army. It is remark- 
able that his army or militia was twice as numerous as 
those of Asa his father. Asa had 580,000 enrolled soldiers 
in his armies ; Jehoshaphat, one million one hundred and 
sixty thousand. And at the period of his reign to which 
the text belongs, he followed up his quiet and silent sub- 
mission to Divine rebuke, by the most prudent and earnest 
measures to avert the threatened inflictions, and to ensure 
more fully the strict execution of justice, and the promotion 
of true religion. He not only commissioned and instructed 
proper agents to judge his subjects in every province, but 
he also made a progress in person through his kingdom to 
enforce and sanction the faithfulness of his officers, and 
directed the people to proper courts of appeal for final 
decision in cases of difficulty. 

2. But in some things he acted mistakenly, inconsis- 
tently and sinfully Sincere religion was the rule; the 
faults which are mentioned are exceptions. 

(1.) There seems to be no w T ay of accounting for his 
making peace, any further than the suspension and cessa- 
tion of hostilities with the kingdom of the ten tribes, and 
his forming a family alliance with Ahab, but by supposing 
him to have acted on a miscalculating worldly policy. 

When Jehoshaphat came to the throne, the two kingdoms 
had been separated about sixty years. There would be old 
men living who remembered the peaceful grandeur of the 
undivided kingdom of twelve tribes in the glorious reign 
of Solomon. The evils which accompanied and followed 
the partition would be justly deplored by the wise and 
good; and statesmen who looked more to human means 


and ends than \p Divine dispensations, might willingly or 
inadvertently forget that when Behoboam had gathered an 
army of one hundred and eighty thousand chosen warriors 
to recover his authority over the revolted tribes, the word 
of God came to him by Shemaiah the prophet, saying, 
" Thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against 
your brethren ; return every man to his house : for this thing 
is done of me." — It seems most probable that the apparent 
desirableness of a reunion of the two kingdoms perverted 
the judgment of Jehoshaphat and his councillors on two 
important and essential questions : first, whether God would 
approve the end ; — and second whether the means proposed 
were lawful or safe. — The marriage of Jehoshaphat's eldest 
son to the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel was apparently 
designed to lead, first to a cementing of peace by a family 
compact, and afterwards to a possible union of the influence 
and the rights of the two royal families in one heir ; who 
in a generation or two might peaceably inherit both 

Jehoshaphat thus entered into temptation himself; and 
set a dangerous snare for his family and people. He did 
evil that good might come — but evil came in terrific 

(2.) This great and culpable error led to all the rest, — his 
going with Ahab to Ramoth Gilead, and the danger he 
incurred there, from which he only escaped by divine 
mercy; for the "Lord helped him, and God moved them 
(the Syrians) to depart from him." 

(3.) After the great deliverance from the Ammonites 
recorded in chapter xx., his easy temper, and bad connex- 
ions led him to a commercial enterprise jointly with 
Ahaziah, which was ungrateful and presumptuous; and 
after all to a military enterprise with Jehoram the son of 
Ahab in the land of Moab. 2 Kings iii. 6, 7. "And kin^ 
Jehoram went out of Samaria the same time and numbered 


all Israel. And he went and sent to Jehoshaphat the kin<* 
of Judah, saying, The king of Moab hath rebelled against 
me : wilt thou go with me against Moab to battle ? And 
he said, I will go up : I am as thou art, my people as thy 
people, and my horses as thy horses." 

II. The consequent mixture of judgment and mercy in 
God's dealings with Jehoshaphat. 

1. God chastised him as a son with signal severity. 

Partly during his life, by stirring up the Moabites and 
others to invade his kingdom, when Jehoshaphat felt and 
acknowledged that his numerous militia was insufficient 
without divine protection. 

Partly by destroying his navy, after threatening to do so, 
on account of his connexion with the wicked son of Ahab. 

Partly by involving him in danger of thirst, etc., in 

God visited Jehoshaphat's sin, after his death, partly by 
permitting Jehoram to kill his brethren, and the Philis- 
tines and Arabians to destroy Jehoram's elder children. 

Partly by permitting Jehu to destroy Ahaziah and his 
kinsmen. See 2 Kings ix. and x. chapters. 

Partly by Athaliah's massacre of all the seed royal. 
2 Chronicles xxii. 10. On the whole, by utterly disappoint- 
ing the false policy with which Jehoshaphat had sought to 
strengthen his family and dynasty by worldly alliances, 
his posterity, in consequence of his erring policy and bad 
connexions, was reduced at one time, about seven years 
after his death, to two persons, Jehosheba the wife of 
Jehoiada, and Joash, then an infant, the only surviving 
male after four massacres. The event sought by the 
affinity with wicked Ahab, took place in part — one heir to 
the two houses — but God had appointed another dynasty 
to displace that of Ahab — Jehu and his posterity reigned 
by divine right. Thus the anticipated series of means took 
place, but the end was frustrated. 


2. But God was merciful to Jehoshaphat himself, He 
heard his prayer, and mightily delivered him and his king- 
dom from the Moabites. He sent prophets to rebuke him 
when he erred, and protected him to the end of his days, 
so that in peace he was gathered to his fathers. The 
weightiest judgments fell on his descendants. 

III. Jehoshaphat's history teaches us 

1. That, with right principle and general faithfulness, as 
the chief elements of character, there may be some strange 
inconsistencies as occasional exceptions. But the offences 
of those who are on the whole sincere will be chastised. 

2. That, without a faithful and watchful use of the light 
and strength of grace, great mischiefs may flow from an 
easy temper, which is commonly called a happy disposition. 
Such a person, however unlikely or unwilling to contrive 
or originate evil, may be extensively involved as a partaker 
of other mens sins, or as the tool of bad men. 

3. That, very complicated and serious, though unex- 
pected, mischiefs may arise from good men's acting with 
worldly policy, instead of religious prudence — mischiefs 
which follow in natural course, not as accidents, but as the 
proper fruits of the seed sown. 

4 That, great beyond calculation, is the sin, and folly, and 
danger of forming had connexions, especially in marriage. 

Sin — in treachery, disloyalty and double-dealing towards 
God. "Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them 
that hate me?" The friendship of the world is spiritual 
adultery in the sight of God. 

Folly — in incurring clashing obligations — binding them 
to love them that hate the Lord. In miscalculating results 
— vainly hoping against revealed truth and duty, and 
against all probability. 

Danger — Great beyond calculation as to the possible 
influence on the religious person who forms the ungodly 
connexion — a whole system of temptations voluntarily 
incurred, and not to be shaken off. 


2. Danger very great and certain as to the training of 
children. A matter of serious difficulty even when both 
parties are wise and good. A difficulty almost insurmount- 
able when one is ungodly. 

3. Unspeakably dangerous to posterity. » In Jehosha- 
phat's case — a succession of horrible massacres — in many 
similar cases the results are like the horrors of French 
tragedy, behind the scenes — in the unseen world the 
murder of souls. 

5. That, if the errors of good men are so dangerous and 
so severely visited ; the deliberate and habitual sins of the 
worldly men, against whom they are warned, will fall still 
heavier on their authors. How great the danger, how 
terrible the results, when sin is the rule and good the 
exception ! " If the righteous scarcely be saved, where 
shall the ungodly and the sinner appear ?" 


" But Jehoiada waxed old, and was full of days when he died ; a hundred 
and thirty years old was he when he died. And they buried him in the city 
of David among the kings, because he had done good in Israel, both toward 
God and toward his house.— 2 Chronicles xxiv, 15, 16. 

The faithful high priest and wise ruler, whose lengthened 
course and honourable end are here briefly mentioned, 
filled a much larger space in the mind's eye of the 
prophets and statesmen of Judea, from his own time 
downwards, than he occupies in the thoughts of modern 
readers. The extended notice of his conduct and character 
in the sacred history, as well as the momentous influence 
of the events in which he was a willing and selected 
instrument of divine providence, may indicate to us what 
*share of our thoughtful attention his life and times deserve. 
He and his pre-eminent contemporaries, Elijah and Elisha, 
were the chief lights of his long day. His sacred office 
and his personal eminence combined to render him, above 
all others in the kingdom of Judah, the man for the times : 
the man who had the influence, the integrity, and the 
sagacious energy to change the times in which he was 
called to act, to stem and to turn the stream of circum- 
stances and events, and to secure, for the people of God 
and the chosen nation, a long respite from enormous public 
evils which, before Jehoiada began to breast the current, 
had broke in with a wide inundation. 

His personal history, connected as it is with the history 
of the Jewish nation and church in his day, illustrates and 
exemplifies various principles both of human and divine 
conduct, and is for that reason, perhaps, among others 
distinctly and impressively recorded. 


It may be instructive and useful to consider — 

I. The general view which the text presents of the long 
life, the religious zeal, and the honourable end of Jehoiada. 

II. The principles implied or suggested by such a record 
in the book of God. 

I. The general view, etc. 

1. It is much more than a mere fragment or circum- 
stance of personal history which the text gives in the 
former part of it — Jehoiada waxed old, etc., one hundred 
and thirty years, etc. It is but natural and reasonable 
that the information at what age he died, should lead our 
thoughts to trace his long course back to its starting point, 
to survey the times in which his youth was passed, and 
during which his character was forming. 

From a careful examination and comparison of what is 
stated in this book concerning the time of the several 
reigns, from Eehoboam down to Joash, it will appear that 
this patriarchal priest and true patriot, Jehoiada, was about 
five years old at the death of Solomon, and that he lived 
through the times of Eehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, 
Jehoram, Ahaziah, Athaliah, and twenty-eight years of the 
reign of Joash. 

Jehoiada was the grandson of that Ahimaaz (the son of 
Zadok the priest), who was one of the messengers to warn 
David to pass over Jordan, lest the politic and diabolical 
counsel of Ahithophel should be acted upon ; and who, 
after the defeat and death of Absalom, obtained leave from 
Joab to carry tidings to David, and by outrunning the 
other messenger gained the opportunity of giving David 
the first news of victory over his enemies, while he left 
him in suspense as to the death of Absalom. In 
1 Chronicles vi. 4, the successive high priests are men- 
tioned, Zadok, Ahimaaz, Azarian, Johanan (which seems to 
be another form of the name of Jehoiada), and Azariah, 
who was high priest in the time of Uzziah (the grandson 


of Joash), and resisted that king's presumptuous attempt 
to burn incense in the temple. 

During the youth of Jehoiada, the most eminent of this 
glorious line, the memory of Solomon's grandeur, and of 
the power and prosperity of the undivided kingdom of the 
twelve tribes, was still fresh in the minds of all Israelites 
of ripe years. When Jehoiada was of the age of twenty- 
one, the temple had been finished about forty years ; and, 
except the treasures, and the shields of gold, which 
Shishak, the Egyptian conqueror took away, that glorious 
sanctuary retained its magnificence unimpaired. The 
conversation of his older friends would abound with recol- 
lections and regrets respecting the glories and the errors of 
Solomon's reign ; his fathers officiated as the priests of the 
Lord amidst the solemn splendours of that house of prayer. 
They had been present when the ark was placed under the 
outspread wings of the cherubim, and when on their 
coming " out of the holy place, the cloud filled the house 
of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister 
because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord had filled 
the house of the Lord." Such remembrances in the con- 
versation of his elders, and such supernatural, sacred 
grandeur in that "holy and beautiful house/' where his 
fathers served as high priests, would combine with the 
direct instruction of these venerable men, to place him in 
most favourable circumstances for the right training of his 
mind and heart. Jehoiada was a young man, when 
Behoboam, taught by divine chastisements, was governing 
comparatively well. He was about twenty-five years old, 
when king Asa began his good and prosperous reign of 
forty-one years. Thus the former part of his life, the time 
when his habits of thought and principles of action would 
be commenced and gradually settled, was passed in a time 
of wise and good government and religious influence. 
Truth and righteousness had then a long ascendancy, and 


the blessed social and national results were constantly 
under his eye in obvious connexion with their moral 
causes. Under the pious reign of good Jehoshsphat, till 
the nineteenth year of Jehoiada's age, the same causes were 
still producing similar effects. The earlier and larger part 
of this great and good man's long life, was thus passed 
amidst scenes and events most auspicious for the formation 
of his personal character, by observation and reflection, and 
the silent power of long habit. As a thoughtful and 
religious observer, he was in a situation to receive 
numerous weighty and lasting impressions of the close 
practical connexion of true religion with good government 
and national happiness. 

When Jehoiada was about ninety years old, a great 
change began, the bitter fruit of what, years before, a 
worldly-wise policy had unwittingly sown. The twelve 
years from the death of Jehoshaphat to the accession of 
Joash were dark with crimes and calamities, with wicked 
government and national misery. The events of that 
shameful and disastrous period, displayed as through 
storms and lightnings, with startling contrast, and dazzling 
illustration, the same great, general laws of providence, the 
same constant and unfailing sequence of moral causes and 
effects, which, in the better times of Jehoshaphat and Asa, 
were presented to the contemplation of observers like 
Jehoiada, as in calm and clear sunlight. 

In the person of Athaliah (who to her husband Jehoram, 
and her son Ahaziah, was their counsellor to do wickedly), 
the house of Ahab, for twelve sad and gloomy years, was 
seated beside or upon the throne of David. During that 
fierce domination of the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, the 
people of Jerusalem were compelled, made to build the 
high places of idols, and enticed to worship them. State 
murders were multiplied for the security of guilty power, 
and divine providence delivered up the house and treasures 


of Jehorarn to baifds of foreign plunderers, who repaid the 
slaughter of his seven brethren upon his own family, 
slaying all his sons but the youngest. The death of that 
son, Ahaziah, in the first year of his reign, with forty-two 
of his male relations (and one of his brethren) by the 
orders of Jehu, and the murder of the remaining members 
of the seed royal of the house of Judah, by Athaliah, 
followed, in gloomy, but apparently natural succession. 
The slaughter of princes had become a common event. 
And by the revolting sins and the frightful, prolific evils of 
that hateful and baneful ascendancy of the house of Ahab 
in the kingdom of Judah, the connexion of wicked govern- 
ment with national decay and wide-spread misery was 
awfully exemplified. 

"Athaliah had long been the virtual possessor of the 
supreme power in Judah," as the wife of Jehorarn, and the 
mother of Ahaziah. But, her son, being cut off, " she 
disdained a precarious and indirect authority, and would 
reign alone. Her spirit was perhaps at this time rendered 
unusually savage by the sanguinary proceedings of Jehu," 
at Jezreel and Samaria, against the family to which she 
herself belonged, and in which she had lost at one outburst 
of wrath, her mother Jezebel, her brother Jehorarn, her 
son Ahaziah, with seventy other male descendants of 
Ahab. It would seem to her very probable that the sort 
of authority excercised by personal influence — first as 
queen-consort, and then as queen-mother, was in very 
great danger. It was likely that whoever of her grand- 
sons might succeed to the throne, he would prefer the 
counsels and guidance of his own mother ; and that his 
own mother would not willingly allow Athaliah to continue 
to retain her accustomed influence. Here then, in addition 
to the extravagant rage of a wicked mind, on account of the 
slaughter of her relatives at Jezreel and Samaria, there 
were two powerful motives, — either of them all-prevalent 


with an ambitious woman, — dread of losing her own 
power, and intolerable jealousy of being superseded by 
another woman. Thus probably she was spurred on, by 
her own vehement passions, to the atrocious resolution of 
destroying all the children of her own son, Ahaziah. 
Perhaps there was a third motive, — a desperate resolve 
that the house of Ahab should not fall alone — that the 
house of David should be involved in the same wreck and 
ruin. And in executing that dreadful determination, she 
unwittingly "fulfilled a part of the mission against the 
house of Ahab, (see 2 Kings ix. 8,) a part which Jehu 
could not execute; " for through herself the taint of Ahab's 
blood had been introduced into the family of Jehoshaphat, 
and she with' her children and children's children, were 
included in the prophetic doom, that God would take 
away Ahab's posterity by the sword. The murder of Joash 
himself, forty-six years after the massacres by Jehu and 
Athaliah, and of his son Amaziah, twenty-nine years later 
by the sword of assassins, completed the accomplishment 
of the sentence against the males of Ahab's house. " The 
Lord would not destroy the house of David (2 Chronicles 
xxi. 7) as he promised to give a light to him and his sons 
for ever" — but in the persons of Joash and Amaziah the 
doom was accomplished to the third and fourth generation, 
which was also a fulfilment of the general denunciation 
in the second commandment ; — that God will visit the 
iniquity of idolatrous fathers upon their children, unto 
the third and fourth generation of them that hate him. 
Joash was the third, and Amaziah the fourth from Ahab; — 
both of them, after ruling well for a season, relapsed into 
idolatry; and thus by their personal guilt, became 
additionally liable to the treasured arrears of wrath, as 
descendants of Ahab and Jezebel. 

Three successive dynasties, of wicked kings of the ten 
tribes, rose and fell in the time of Jehoiada; — that of 


•Jeroboam, -which ruled twenty-four years, — that of Baasha, 
twenty-six years, — that of Omri, forty-six years. When 
the power of the house of Ahab began, by the accession of 
Omri, his father, Jehoiada was about fifty-six years old. 
He was contemporary with, and probably observed with 
intelligent and conscientious alarm, the beginning of that 
ruinous policy of Jehoshaphat which sought security for 
the throne and family of David, and perhaps recoveiy of 
lost dominion in the union of both kingdoms, by affinity 
with that able and wicked Ahab, who added the worship of 
Baal to the sins of Jeroboam, "and did more to provoke 
the Lord God of Israel to anger, than all the kings of Israel 
that were before him." At the death of Athaliah, Jehoiada 
being then one hundred and tw T o years old, saw the issue 
of that erring policy. He then saw the once powerful and 
dangerous house of Ahab reduced to one descendant, of 
seven }^ears old ; and only preserved from complete 
extinction, by its connexion with that house of David, 
which, by an ungodly alliance with Ahab and Jezebel, had 
been dragged to the brink of destruction. 

Such were the times in which Jehoiada had passed about 
a century of his long life ; times which, from an early age 
he had doubtless intensely observed; belonging as he did 
to a family, in rank and influence, only second to the 
house of David, and in which ignorance or indifference in 
reference to such a series of events was scarcely possible. 
Yet during nearly one hundred years of his life we read 
nothing of him. He had probably spent many years in 
the high priesthood. While regular and official duties 
were his proper work and providential ealling, he kept in 
his station, as a faithful man, being no ambitious meddler 
in affairs of state, but quietly and vigilantly attentive to 
the claims of duty. But had he been a thoughtless and 
indifferent observer, he would have been old without 
experience, — remembering much, but destitute of wisdom, 


— and unfit for counsel or action at the season of urgent 
need and precious opportunity. Had he lived on without 
observation, his high station and venerable age would have 
ill qualified him to do good in Israel in such times. Had 
he been a mere observer, however attentive and thoughtful, 
however full of treasured recollections, however wise to 
reflect and to judge, we should but have found his name 
slightly mentioned amongst the genealogies, and the sacred 
history would not have paused to state how long he lived, 
or where he was buried. 

2. But at one hundred and two years he comes forth 
openly as a man of action, — of sagacious, intrepid, influential 
decision — as a leading character — a ruler of the people — 
a champion for the truth and the right, — who by a series of 
well-considered, extraordinary, daring, and effectual acts of 
duty, in a time of frightful emergency, earns the praise 
that "he had done good in Israel, both toward God, and 
toward his house." Long before he planned and executed 
the bold enterprise which delivered the throne, the temple, 
and the people, by the death of the murderess, Athaliah, he 
must have been acting with steadfast and courageous 
fidelity in his office as high priest. Two or three of the 
eight years of Jehoram's reign, were in the lifetime of his 
father Jehoshaph at; and the last two were after the plunder 
of his treasures, the captivity of his wives, and the death 
of all his elder sons, and during the incurable disease with 
which the Lord visited him according to the prophetic 
writing of Elijah, 2 Chronicles xxi. 12-15. "And there 
came a writing to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, 
Thus saith the Lord God of David thy father, Because thou 
hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat thy father, 
nor in the ways of Asa king of Judah, But hast walked 
in the ways of the kings of Israel, and hast made Judah 
and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring, like to 
the whoredoms of the house of Ahab, and also hast slain 


thy brethren of thy father's house, which were better than 
thyself; Behold with a great plague will the Lord smite 
thy people, and thy children, and thy wives, and all thy 
goods ; And thou shalt have great sickness by disease of 
thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the 
sickness day by day." It must therefore have been within 
the three or four years (from the death of Jehoshaphat to 
the slaughter of Jehoram's sons) that what is mentioned 
xxiv. 7, took place, "For the sons Athaliah, that wicked 
woman, had broken up the house of God ; and also all the 
dedicated things of the house of the Lord did they 
bestow upon Baalim." These things must have passed 
at a period ending nine years before the death of Athaliah. 
During at least twelve years, commencing when Jehoram 
slew his seven brethren, the power and influence of a 
violent and unscrupulous court were exerted to promote 
idolatry and to discourage the worship of the Lord. But 
it appears probable from xxiii. 8, that through all the 
confusion of these dreadful times, Jehoiada kept up the 
regular attendance of the priests and Levites by weekly 
courses. The temple had been despoiled of its precious 
dedicated things, to enrich and adorn the houses of 
Baalim ; and the house of Grod had been broken up ; but 
amidst the treachery and deficiencies caused by wanton 
spoliation, the faithful servants of God continued their 
stated duties, even after the most frightful manifestations 
of tyrannical rage. Had the constancy of Jehoiada and 
those who served under him, been less uniform, he would 
not have had that continuous possession and custody of 
the temple, which enabled the infant Joash to be withdrawn 
from amongst Ahaziah's sons when they were slain, and to 
be hid with Jehoiada and Jehosheba in the house of God 
six years, while Athaliah reigned over the land. Had 
Jehoiada at any time wavered, had he forsaken the plun- 
dered and delapidated temple, he would have been without 


opportunity to interpose unobserved ; and had he not 
persevered in the worst of times in requiring the regular 
attendance by courses, the Priests and Levites would not 
have been at hand without remark or suspicion, when their 
presence in double numbers was wanted to effect the 
downfall of the usurper and the deliverance of Judah. 
2 Chronicles xxiv. 1 4. " And they offered burnt offerings 
continually all the days of Jehoiada." 

Keeping firm hold of the vantage ground afforded by 
quiet and regular perseverance in his holy duties, Jehoiada 
doubtless waited and watched, with careful and discerning 
notice, the course of events and the temper of the people. 
The terrific excess of such violence as Athaliah had exerted 
to seize the sovereign power, would for a time have a stun- 
ning and disheartening effect on the people generally. But 
in the course of years, the ordinary government of a wicked 
woman, becomes loathsome and contemptible, especially 
when destitute of the shadow of right, and upheld by mere 
force and terror. In six years the terrors of Athaliah' s 
power, unconnected as it was with any constitutional 
and lawful support, would abate; and men would grow 
ashamed, and indignant against themselves for submitting 
to be oppressed by such a monster. Many would be thus 
prepared to co-operate in any reasonable and promising 
scheme for her destruction. Jehoiada waited for this 
change in the minds of men. It is evident that Jehoiada 
acted with consummate judgment; consulted but a short 
time before the crisis of action with a few well-disposed 
commanders, whom he satisfied, that an heir of David, 
the son of Ahaziah, yet survived ; and having shown him 
to them, bound them with an oath. The despised temple, 
unfrequented by the adherents of the usurper, still afforded 
shelter to the infant king, and was an unexpected muster- 
ing ground for his deliverers. By detaining that body of 
Priests and Levites that should have gone out by course 


on the Sabbath, which could be done without giving any 
of them previous notice ; and by adding to these the men 
of five captains of hundreds, whose chiefs alone were in 
the secret ; and with them chiefs of the fathers of Israel ; 
a force was simultaneously brought together, from various 
cities of Judah ; and without stir or tumult, or display of 
arms, was assembled at one time in the temple. Their 
several posts of duty being assigned them, they were 
furnished with weapons from the armoury of David, in the 
house of God. Then was the young king brought forth, 
and crowned amidst his armed defenders; and a lawful 
government, under a rightful monarch, was thus restored, 
before a blow was struck or a life taken. They were 
sounds of loyal triumph, acclamations of public joy, not 
of conflict, that reached the ears of Athaliah; and care 
was taken that the temple which she entered in her alarm, 
as an alien and an enemy, should not be stained with her 
blood; but she was slain beside the royal palace. 2 Kings 
xi. 17. "And Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord 
and the king and the people that they should be the Lord's 
people." 2 Chronicles xxiii. 17-21. "Then all the people 
went to the house of Baal, and brake it down, and brake 
his altars and his images in pieces, and slew Mattan the 
priest of Baal before the altars," etc. 

Thus after the worshippers of Baal had accustomed the 
people to hear of violence and massacre, a great and happy 
reformation was effected at the cost of two guilty lives ; 
Athaliah and Mattan being great criminals against that 
law which was at once divine and national ; and a founda- 
tion was laid for further peaceful triumphs of truth and 

After these things Jehoiada survived twenty-eight 
years, being fourteen years after king Joash attained 
maturity, and seventeen years after he was of the age 


at which Solomon begun his reign, with a manly ripeness 
of judgment. 
The faithfulness of the aged patriarch was manifested by 
his so instructing Joash, and his own sons Zechariah and 
Azariah — that Joash did that which was right in the sight 
of the Lord all his days, wherein Jehoiada the priest 
instructed him ; and his sons proved worthy of such a 
father, Zechariah being a faithful witness against idolatry 
even to martyrdom ; and Azariah being he who withstood 
king Uzziah, when he intruded into the temple to burn 

We find Joash at one time reproaching Jehoiada for dila- 
tory management as to the repairs of the temple ; a circum- 
stance which one commentator interprets as implying a want 
of active zeal. But in all the eventful history of the Jewish 
monarchies, we shall find no more striking instance of 
high-principled and sagacious decision than in his first 
recorded acts ; and from the first appointment of the 
Levitical priesthood to the royal priesthood of the Macca- 
bees or Asmonean princes, no high priest appears so 
eminent in his station, so remarkable in his personal 
influence over the course of events, so powerful in his life, 
or so honoured at his death. 

3. "They buried him in the city of David among the 
kings." At the time of his death, all Concurred in the 
desire to give special honour to the instrum^|$6 of so many 
benefits. The people had dwelt in peace under his shadow ; 
the king who owed to him his life and throne, had not 
yet learned to be basely ungrateful. He who some years 
afterwards (ten, according to chronology of the margin of 
the Oxford Bible; so long it required to overcome good 
habits in a king and people who had no deep principle of 
religion) commanded that his cousin and faithful reprover, 
Zechariah, should be stoned "in the court of the house 'of 


the Lord;" and, who, by a divine retribution, was first 
plundered by the Syrians, and then slain by his own 
servants, and excluded at his burial from the sepulchres of 
the kings;— he united with his people in burying Jehoiada 
"in the city of David among the kings, because he had done 
good in Israel, both toward God, and toward his house." 

II. Principles implied or suggested by this record of 

1. The honour rendered to him in the manner of his 
interment was intended to signify and express what the 
text records — the reverent and grateful approbation of the 
faithfulness, zeal and fortitude of Jehoiada in the cause of 
the nation and of true religion, on the part of the people 
and nation who had been benefited by his virtues. 

A different course of action, a plausible and showy 
self-aggrandisement, may impose on the multitude for a 
time, and obtain a transient popularity; but the benevolent 
enterprise which devotes and hazards self for the public 
£ood, and employs success with conscientious faithfulness, 
commands thoughtful and sincere veneration. 

2. The honour that comes from God is added, by the 
tacit confirmation of the national estimate of Jehoiada's 
worth, in this inspired history. His name and virtues 
are fixed in the everlasting word like stars in the firma- 
ment, and have a secured, world-wide renown to the end 
of time. 

3. The plain lesson that we should do our duty in that 
state of life whereunto it hath pleased God to call 
us. "A few men manage the world as instruments of 

4. A greater than Jehoiada has devoted himself to the 
benevolent, self-sacrificing enterprise of our salvation. He 
was before all things — and from the foundation of the 
world it was his purpose to sanctify himself — to devote 


himself — as a sacrifice to be offered in the fulness of 
time. During thousands of years he waited like Jehoiada 
the fitting opportunity ; but with a higher purpose, amidst 
greater danger, and with a perfect foresight which tran- 
scended Jehoiada's provident arrangements — and then 
came forth as the w T orker of miracles, the preacher of 
righteousness, and the Eoyal High Priest of our profession, 
to secure the throne of David and the salvation of his 



" And seekest thou great things for thyself ? seek them not : for, behold, I 
will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the Lord : but thy life will I give unto thee 
for a prey in all places whither thou goest." — Jeremiah xlv. 5. 

Foe our guidance and encouragement in reading the 
scriptures of the Old Testament, the Apostle Paul states 
that, " whatsoever things were written aforetime were 
written for our learning ; (Eomans xv. 4,) that "the things 
which happened to the Israelites, were " for ensamples ; 
and " are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends 
of the world are come : " implying that they are for the 
instruction of those who live under the Gospel and king- 
dom of Christ ; that last dispensation of grace which will 
continue to the end of time. In applying the principle of 
the Apostle's statement, I have been led to regard this 
message from God, to Baruch the scribe, as breathing a 
spirit of warning to the people of God, everywhere and 
always, against that great branch of wordliness — Ambition. 
It suggests weighty reasons why spiritually-minded persons 
should unreservedly forego and renounce ambitious views. 
Against this application of the passage, doubts and 
objections have sometimes been urged; but the reconsidera- 
tion thus called for has resulted in a settled conviction that 
the injunction — " Seek them not," is not to be regarded 
merely as a fragment of Baruch's personal history, nor as 
being limited to his case. The Lord condescendingly gave 
reasons why Baruch should not seek great things for 
himself ; reasons which, in effect, allege a principle, as the 
ground of his prescribed duty ; — the principle, namely, 
that his case, with its necessities and dangers, was 
specially regarded and provided for, amidst great purposes 

baruch. 193 

of Providence concerning his country and people ; that as 
he had a divine assurance of his personal safety, amidst 
great and general calamities, his heart should be closed 
against all selfish desires for great things ; that retaining a 
heaven-protected life, amidst the scenes of death and 
ruin with which he was, or would be, surrounded, he 
ought humbly and thankfully to prize it as a sufficient 
distinction and favour to be so divinely guarded. And 
our sober and learned expositor, Benson, treats the precept 
as not limited to Baruch's individual case, but as exten- 
sively applicable. "Dost thou aspire to honour, dignity 
and prosperity, or expect to be exempted from adversity 
and trouble, in a time of great and common calamity ? 
'Seek them not.'— Xever think of any thing of the kind." 

Baruch was admonished to moderate his desires, because 
he had a special pledge of providential care and goodness. 
The principle of this caution to him is of great importance, 
and of extensive and permanent application. It is therefore 
recorded for the general guidance and comfort of the people 
of God. Each and every true believer in Him, to whom 
" all power is given in heaven and in earth," is placed 
under a divine safeguard. " The angel of the Lord encamp- 
eth round about them that fear Him and delivereth them.'' 
But great blessings bring with them great duties. " Behold, 
I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and 
to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. 
Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not." 
Thus the special privilege and security promised to Baruch, 
brought with it a caution against desires which, in a man 
so favoured, would displease the Lord. 

The roll of prophecies which the Lord directed Jeremiah 
to dictate to Baruch, having been profanely burned by 
king Jehoiakim ; Jeremiah and Baruch were thereupon 
commanded to prepare another roll, and to write "therein all 
the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah 


1 94 BARUCH. 

had burned in the fire : and there were added unto them 
many like words." But the many like words, which were 
probably additional threatenings or more minute declara- 
tions are, though addressed to the king and his people, not 
recorded. The same Holy Spirit who directed that the 
roll should be written, having deemed it unnecessary to 
preserve some of the parts ; while this word of the Lord, 
to Baruch the Scribe, is honoured with a permanent place 
in the sacred pages which will be read in all nations while 
the world endures. 

Therefore this message from the Lord to Baruch, though 
given in the first instance for his personal guidance and 
comfort, stands in the Holy Scriptures, the abiding word, for 
general edification. Believing it to be a divine injunction 
to the people of God against Ambition, — 

We propose to consider 

The description the text gives of Ambition ; the 
prohibition of it, and the reasons which are expressed 
or implied in reference to Ambition ; or, I. Ambition 
described; II. Ambition prohibited; III. For what reasons. 

I. Ambition described. 

The question — Seekest thou great things for thyself? 
is a compact description of the characteristic spirit of 
Ambition ; almost a perfect definition ; expressing the 
thing itself, with its essential properties, and nothing 
more. If we think closely concerning the habitual aims 
and efforts of ambitious persons, we perceive that great 
things of some kind for themselves are constantly in their 
mind's eye. 

Its chief points will come into view, if we consider the 
objects, the subjects, and the manifestations of Ambition. 

1. The objects. 

Titles, honours, fame, authority, influence, and often, 
wealth also, are some of the great things desired and 

BAEUCH. 195 

pursued by those who seek great things for themselves. 
And, as it is when compared with each other that things 
appear small or great, the love of superiority is the master- 
vice of an ambitious mind. Wealth in these times, is 
perhaps as much valued for the influence, or the social 
importance with which it invests its possessor, as from 
the more obvious motives of avarice, or for self-indulgence 
in the pleasures wealth can procure. Hence avarice is 
now generally one of the forms of Ambition ; and ostenta- 
tion, or pompous display, is one of its offensive symptoms. 

2. As to its subjects, Ambition is not confined to persons 
of high birth or rank, nor to important and conspicuous 
stations, to courts, or camps, to parliaments, or fields of 
battle. The famous instance of Caasar, who declared that 
he would rather be the first man in a village, than the 
second in imperial Eome, shews that the spirit of Ambition, 
may not merely exist, but may find a sphere of action, of 
conflict, of triumph, in the humble scenes of common life. 

Wherever religious societies have existed, on a large 
scale, and are no longer persecuted, the spirit of ambition 
will be found in operation along with the other mental 
vices which infest and corrupt human intercourse; and 
will be one of the disturbing influences which supplant 
love and destroy concord. 

The essence of this spirit will be found in all cases to 
consist in a desire of great things for self. 

This vice, like a sturdy weed, can live and flourish } 
independent of rich soil and high culture. While it will 
devour any amount of the gratifications which can be 
administered, in any form for which it has been prepared 
by habit; its appetite for distinction can accommodate 
itself to changes of condition. The hog, one of the 
grossest of brutes, is said to be capable of acquiring a 
daintiness, amidst the large supply of autumnal fruits in 

196 BARUCH. 

thick forests ; though it can relish the coarsest food when 
there is no choice. The emperor of the French and king 
of Italy, after he had abundantly shewn that he desired to 
be nothing less than a king of kings, exhibited a pompous 
activity as emperor of Elba, and clung to every shred of 
titular distinction as the political captive at St. Helena. 
And the proud professor of religion, who would not find 
a pontificate or a continent too wide for his love of 
domineering, will contrive to make his ruling passion 
irksome to others in the narrower sphere of a Sunday- 
school, or village chapel, or a family I have observed 
various practical illustrations of these. 

3. Amongst the actual, but disguised, and often unsus- 
pected, manifestations of Ambition, we may reckon the 
envy with which base minds regard human greatness 
generally, grandeur of character as well as rank or station. 
The discontent which repines, which frets, and growls, and 
struts in a humble lot, is a form of the same proud selfish- 
ness which seeks great things for self. Many who despair 
of attaining greatness, grudge the success of others ; and 
murmur at their own lot, while they naturally impute 
Ambition to those who succeed. 

It seems to imply a degree of ambitious infirmity in the 
mind of Baruch that, at a season of impending national 
calamity, when every thing in Judea, from the cottage of 
the husbandman to the throne and the temple, was totter- 
ing on the verge of ruin, and thousands of lives were 
threatened with the unsparing sword of cruel conquerors, 
he should need any caution against seeking great things for 
himself. It appears to indicate that Ambition is a vice of 
a most stubborn and insidious nature; that in the most 
unpromising times it will find means and pretences to 
flatter vain hope; and that a servant of God who has even 
acted in the spirit of martyrdom, may need to be warned 
against this most plausible and deceitful form of selfishness. 

BARUCH. ] 97 

We have to consider 

Secondly, the Prohibition, "Seek them not" 

It admits of no question that, to Bariich, in particular, 
Ambition was forbidden. 

But some will perhaps pause and dispute, before they 
will" be satisfied to admit, that the prohibition is general, 
Bs Ambition, or seeking great things for self, forbidden to 
me, to you ? 

Let other intimations of the mind of the Holy Spirit be 
compared with this. Numbers xvi. 39, 40. "And Eleazar 
the priest took the brazen censers, wherewith they that 
were burnt had offered ; and they made broad plates for a 
covering of the altar : To be a memorial unto the children 
of Israel, that no stranger, which is not of the seed of 
Aaron, come near to offer incense before the Lord ; that he 
be not as Korah, and as his company : as the Lord said 
to him by the hand of Moses." 

All the objects of Ambition are gratifications of pride. 
Let it be considered that pride is placed first among things 
which the Lord hates. Proverbs vi. 16. "A proud look," 
or haughty eyes, which is the marginal reading. And the 
testimony of Wisdom in Proverbs viii. 13. "The fear of 
the Lord is to hate evil : pride and arrogancy, and the evil 
way, and the froward mouth do I hate." The Apostle 
James reminds us that, "God resisteth the proud, but 
giveth grace unto the humble." Our Lord's searching 
enquiry, (Mark ix. 33, 34.) "What was it that ye disputed 
among yourselves by the way ? " evidently stirred in the 
consciousness of the disciples a degree of self-reproach; for 
"they held their peace," as being ashamed of the subject, 
and afraid to confess it ; because " by the way they had 
disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest ? " 
He then proceeded to lay clown a principle which condemns 
that love of superiority which is the root of Ambition, " He 
sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If 

198 BARUCH. 

any man desire %o be first, the same shall be last of all, and 
servant of all." The same proud sentiment is impressively 
censured by his caution against the spirit of the Scribes, 
in his charge to his disciples concerning them. Luke xx. 
46. " Beware of the Scribes, which desire to walk in long 
robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest 
seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts." 
Can the love of pre-eminence be more explicitly forbidden 
to Christ's disciples ? But if further proof be sought, of 
the fact that it is so contrary to the spirit of a disciple, it is 
obviously given by the complaint of the Apostle John in 
his third Epistle, "I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, 
who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them, receiveth 
us not/' 

Thirdly, the Eeasons. 

The prohibition of Ambition to godly men may be 
further corroborated by adducing the inconsistency of 
Ambition with all the spiritual virtues and graces. It is 
incompatible with purity and simplicity of intention ; with 
such love of our neighbour as the law of Christ requires ; 
with perfect love to, and delight in God ; with true 
contentment, humility and heavenly mindedness. 

It is not less inimical to peace in the church of Christ. 
Our divisions, and those of other churches, have made it 
painfully apparent that an ambitious man out of office, will 
be discontented, and will be tempted, by his own longings 
for power, and by envy of those who possess it, to use 
undermining arts against those who are in authority, and 
to offend his equals by arrogating to himself an importance 
which they will be moved to disallow : in office the same 
man will be likely to offend all by being haughty and 

It is obvious that all the really great men of the scrip- 
ture history, those who obtained " the honour that cometh 
from God," did not seek great things for themselves. 

BARUCH. 1 «..)!» 

Joseph, Closes, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, Saul in his best 
days, David and Daniel are illustrious examples. David's 
words in the 13 1st Psalm, in which he probably speaks as 
a type of Christ, disclaim the feelings and the course of an 
ambitious mind. "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor 
mine eyes lofty : neither do I exercise myself in great 
matters, or in things too high for me." 

If the covetous man is an idolator, an ambitious man is 
no less so. Let all the disciples of Christ Jesus, seek real 
excellence, and covet earnestly the best gifts, the honour 
that cometh from God, the mind that was in Christ : but 
not great things for self. Pride and Ambition are the very 
opposites of what Paul points out as the mind which was 
in Christ. And Peter, repeating the testimony of James, 
almost in the same words, adds sayings which joins Pride 
with Ambition, and forbid both. His charge to the elders 
of churches being — " Feed the flock of God— taking the 
oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly ; not for 
filthy lucre, but of a ready mind ; neither as being lords 
over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock." — 
" Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed 
with humility ; for God resisteth the .proud, and giveth 
grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under 
the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due 


"Thou his son, Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou 
knewest all this, but hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven."— 
Daniel v. 22, 23. 

The book of Daniel is neither wholly a history, nor 
wholly a prophecy ; but, along with some very clear and 
important predictions, it is, in great part, a chronicle or 
memoir of remarkable events which happened in Daniel's 
time : those especially by which prophecy was fulfilled, or 
the dominion of divine providence manifested : many of 
them requiring him to act a firm and noble part, as a 
servant of God, in an influential and conspicuous station ; 
and most of them deeply involving the temporal state of 
his afflicted nation, and the general interests of the visible 

From other historians we learn, that a considerable 
space of time intervened between the scenes here presented 
and the events which are recorded in the preceding chap- 
ter : an interval which comprised the reigns of four kings 
of Babylon, successors of Nebuchadnezzar ; the last of 
whom was the Belshazzar here mentioned, and who, in 
other histories of those times, is called Nabonadius and 

The occurrences stated in this chapter, are some of the 
strangest and most terrible on record : rendered more 
memorable by supernatural manifestations, and terminating 
in the downfall of the first of the four great empires. 

In examining the passage we have selected from this 
interesting portion of Old Testament history, we shall con- 
sider the words 

I. As they refer to the crimes and judgments mentioned 
in this chapter. 


II. As tliey suggest instruction and warning. 

I. We shall refer to events then present, recent, or 
impending ; most of these were either crimes or judgments. 

First of all we shall briefly state the occasion of Daniel's 
being sent for into the presence of Belshazzar. 

When this inglorious and unhappy prince came to the 
throne, the state was already full of disorder and corrup- 
tion ; the manners of the people were become effeminate ; 
both their minds and bodies were enfeebled by luxury and 
indulgence, and the strength and authority of the empire 
had begun rapidly to decline. 

At the time when Daniel was brought before Belshazzar, 
his vast metropolis was in a state of siege. One of his 
predecessors had wantonly provoked a dangerous war with 
the Medes ; a powerful people who had assisted the kings 
of Babylon in the conquest of Nineveh, and whose for- 
midable alliance had been one of the bulwarks of the 
Chaldean empire. The events of this imprudent and 
sanguinary contest, had been generally favourable to the 
Medes, whose cause was supported by their neighbours the 
Persians. By repeated overthrows, the Babylonians were 
so weakened and dispirited, that they durst no longer 
encounter their enemies in the field ; but shut themselves 
up within the fortified walls of their vast capital. These 
walls are said to have been twenty-five yards broad, and 
one hundred yards high, and to have formed a regular 
square, each side of which was fifteen miles long; with 
twenty-five gates on each side, opening into as many 
streets. During the siege, this extensive fortification was 
the whole of Belshazzar s real kingdom, and contained all 
his actual and available resources. But the city being 
filled with wealth of every kind, stored with provisions for 
twenty years, encompassed outside the walls with a wide 
and deep moat, filled with water from the river, and 
defended by a very numerous garrison; the infatuated 


government imagined itself secure, and derided the patient 
and determined efforts of the invaders. The imperious 
king and his dissipated court gave their time and attention 
to the soft luxuries and vain amusements of peace ; instead 
of the austere toil and vigilance of war. While the enemy 
was thundering at their gates, or deeply revolving new 
plans for their destruction; they vied with each other in 
the splendour of dress and the pomp of entertainments; 
they ate, drank, sang, danced, and made merry; and not 
content with defying the besieging armies, they drank 
derision and defiance to the king of heaven. This was the 
climax of their daring course of permitted impiety; the 
measure of their iniquities was now full; and this last 
drop made the waters of bitterness overflow. 

This last great provocation, which drew down the linger- 
ing vengeance that had long hung over Babylon, we shall 
state in the words of this record. " Belshazzar the king 
made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank 
wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, while he tasted the 
wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels 
which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the 
temple which was in Jerusalem ; that the king and his 
princes, his wives and his concubines, might drink therein. 
Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out 
of the temple of the house of G-od which was at Jerusalem : 
and the king and his princes, his wives and his concubines, 
drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of 
gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone." 

While these things were transacting, while the infatuated 
king was insulting Jehovah, and wounding the best feelings 
of His humbled and suffering people, God interposed in 
His own cause, and stopped the royal drunkard in his 
career of insolent impiety. 

In the midst of his revelling, a mysterious apparition 
met the eyes of the astonished prince; and festive <dow 


and the noise of mirth were instantly turned into a scene 
of pale fright and screaming horror. "There came forth 
fingers of a man's hand," a hand without an arm or a body, 
nay part of a hand, " and wrote over against the candle- 
stick upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace, and 
the king saw the part of the hand that wrote." (A spirit, — 
see Job iv. 14, 15, "Fear came upon me, and trembling, 
which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed 
before my face ; the hair of my flesh stood up.") " Then 
the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts 
troubled him, so that the joints of his bones were loosed, 
and his knees smote one against another." Well might 
his countenance be changed ! His alarmed conscience 
foreboded evils of undefinable magnitude. In the height 
of his panic he called for the juggling magicians, the crafty 
soothsayers and pretended wise men, and urged them with 
the promise of vast rew T arcls, to read and interpret the 
mysterious characters. The magnificent offers held out to 
them, incited them to attempt their utmost ; but the terri- 
ble prodigy confounded their arts, and compelled them to 
acknowledge their ignorance. 

From the manner in which Daniel was afterwards intro- 
duced, it appears as if, in the reigns intervening between 
Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, he had fallen into neglect 
and obscurity, so as to be almost unknown to the king and 
his courtiers. Nebuchadnezzar had raised him to import- 
ant employments and distinguished honours ; but the 
successors of that great king seem to have inherited his 
pride and extravagance, without imitating his candour, his 
openness to conviction, and his sincere humiliation- 
Nebuchadnezzar had been accustomed to make Daniel his 
most trusted counsellor when his thoughts troubled him, 
and when his mind was agitated by supernatural intima- 
tions ; but the successors of deceased sovereigns frequently 
neglect the friends and favourites of departed power ; hence, 


when Daniel's patron died, a new set of men would probably 
divide among them the favours of royalty, and he would 
be laid aside with the old administration. 

But the fame of his former greatness and unequalled 
wisdom was still remembered by some, and particularly by 
the queen, probably the widow of one of the former 
monarchs, and supposed by some to be the mother of 
Belshazzar, and the aunt of Cyrus. The tumult in the 
banqueting house reached her ear in another part of the 
palace. She came to the hall of feasting and saw the 
whole assembly astonished, and the king half dead with 
fear. She reminded him of Daniel, and advised that he 
should be consulted concerning the tremendous mystery. 
(See verses 10, 11, 12.) "Now the queen by reason of the 
words of the king and his lords, came into the banquet 
house : and the queen spake and said, king, live for 
ever : let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy counte- 
nance be changed. There is a man in thy kingdom, in 
whom is the spirit of the holy gods ; and in the days of 
thy father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the 
wisdom of the gods, was found in him ; whom the king 
Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, 
made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and 
soothsayers : forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and know- 
ledge, and understanding and interpreting of dreams, and 
shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were 
found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belte- 
shazzar; now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the 

2. Daniel, long estranged from courts, was then brought 
before the royal presence in this hour of need ; and the 
pale prince addressed him as follows : " Art thou that 
Daniel, which art of the children of the captivity of Judah, 
whom the king, my father, brought out of Jewry ? I have 
even heard of thee, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, 


and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom is 
found in thee. And now the wise men, the astrologers, 
have been brought in before me, that they should read this 
writing, and make known unto me the interpretation 
thereof; but they could not shew the interpretation of the 
thing : and I have heard of thee, that thou canst make 
interpretations and dissolve doubts : now if thou canst 
read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation 
thereof, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a 
chain of gold about thy neck, and thou shalt be the third 
ruler in the kingdom." 

The heavenly minded Daniel heard these imperial offers 
not like a man of this world. None of the spectators 
detected the alacrity of worldly ambition sparkle in his 
eye when he was told of the scarlet robe, the chain of gold, 
and the third office in the kingdom. He introduces his 
reply like an incorruptible man. He had not been elated 
by the favour of princes, nor disheartened by their neglect. 
Therefore he shews no selfish eagerness, he uses no flattery, 
he betrays no frailty on this critical occasion, amidst the 
sincere compliments of the terrified king, and his lavish 
promises of power and honour. He calmly declines his 
proffered gifts and rewards; yet undertakes to read the 
writing and make known to him the interpretation. 

3. But before he satisfied the king's anxious and tortur- 
ing curiosity, he judged it right to put him in remembrance 
of some solemn circumstances which Belshazzar well knew, 
but which the pursuits of pride and folly had prevented 
him from recollecting or regarding : and by displaying the 
connexion of those circumstances with the portentous 
miracle before him, he prepared the way for an irresistible 
inroad into Belshazzar's guilty conscience. 

He reminds him first of the power and grandeur of 
Nebuchadnezzar, and of the real cause of his greatness and 
prosperity, — the will of God. " thou king, the most 


high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father " (thy ancestor) 
" a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour, and for 
the majesty that He gave him, all people, nations and 
languages trembled before him ; whom he would he slew ; 
and whom he would he kept alive ; and whom he would 
he set up; and whom he would he pat down." He 
reminds him of Nebuchadnezzar's offence, his heart being 
lifted up and his mind hardened in pride, forgetting that 
God ruleth, and that conquest and royalty are dependent 
on His will. 

He repeats to Belshazzar what he already knew of 
Nebuchadnezzar's punishment, and the reformation it 
wrought in his haughty mind. " He was deposed from his 
kingly throne, and they took his glory from him ; and he 
was driven from the sons of men ; and bis heart was made 
like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses; 
they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet 
with the dew of heaven ; till he knew that the most high 
God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that He appointeth 
over it whomsoever He will." 

He then, in the words of the text, tells him that all 
these striking providences were and must be well known 
to him; and that he ought to have taken warning and 
been humbled, by examples so instructive and judgments 
so impressive. 

He boldly accuses him, to his face, of having sinned 
against knowledge and conviction ; of remaining hardened, 
unhumbled, and irreligious, notwithstanding he had all the 
proof he could desire or demand of the power, holiness, 
and severity of Israel's God. 

He not only charges him with guilty neglect in being 
unhumbled, but reproaches his pride and insolence in 
positive terms : — first, generally, in the text, "Thou, his son, 
Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou 
knewest all this, but hast lifted up thyself against the 


Lord of heaven": — then, more particularly by singling out 
the aggravated instance of his recent profaneness : "They 
have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, 
and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines have drunk 
wine in them ; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, 
and gold, of brass, iron, wood and stone, which see not, nor 
hear, nor know : and the God in whose hand thy breath 
is, and whose are all thv ways, hast thou not glorified." 

He speaks pointedly and searchingly to the awakened 
conscience and trembling heart of the royal criminal ; who 
was too sincerely terrified to interrupt or contradict him, 
when he said, " thou knewest all this/' 

By this introductory statement, Daniel intended to shew 
Belshazzar that his sin was aggravated and inexcusable ; 
that he previously knew the power and terrors of the living 
God he had insulted; that he could not plead ignorance, 
being actually in possession of the most impressive infor- 
mation, sufficient to have cautioned him against such pride 
and profaneness as he had wantonly and ostentatiously 

By reminding Belshazzar of what he was doing when he 
first saw the apparition, he shews his crime and the 
mystery before his eyes to be inseparably linked together ; 
and recalls, with additional force, those insupportable feel- 
ings with which conscience overwhelmed Belshazzar, at 
the first sight of the hand and its writing. 

All the time that the prophet was delivering this 
impressive exordium, the mysterious words were manifest 
on the wall ; and the panic-stricken king had to endure at 
once the sight of this ominous message from the invisible 
world, and the calm unanswerable reproaches of the man 
of God. 

4. Daniel, having finished his circumstantial and appall- 
ing charge, then, without disguise, evasion, or delay, pro- 
ceeds to read the miraculous writing, to explain the 


mysterious meaning of the portentous characters, and 
announce to the crowned sinner the consequences of his 
last provocation. At this juncture, we are told, the 
apparition of the fingers vanished, " and this writing was 
written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIK This is 
the interpretation of the thing : Mene ; God hath num- 
bered thy kingdom, and finished it. Tekel; thou art 
weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. Peres ; 
thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and 

5. The last act of Belshazzar, which is here recorded, 
has a favourable aspect ; and may be viewed as the 
outward and visible sign of an inward, spiritual humilia- 
tion, and, at the same time, of magnanimity. Though 
Daniel had been to him a prophet of evil, though he had 
heard from him nothing but reproof and denunciation, he 
immediately conferred upon him the rewards he had prom- 
ised to whomsoever should read the writing and shew the 
interpretation of it. " He commanded, and they clothed 
Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, 
and made a proclamation concerning him that he should be 
the third ruler in the kingdom." 

Not like Ahab, whose last mentioned act before going 
up to the fatal battle at Ramoth Gilead, contrary to the 
direct prohibition of God by the mouth of Micaiah, was 
to denounce Micaiah " to Amon the governor of the city, 
and to Joash the king's son/' saying, " Put this fellow in 
prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with 
water of affliction, until I return in peace." The magna- 
nimity of Belshazzar's conduct to Daniel, which the Holy 
Spirit has thus kept in remembrance, while the only 
further statement concerning him is "in that night was 
Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain/' gives some 
hope respecting him that though he was punished with a 
speedy and violent death, he may have delayed not to 


humble his heart in true penitence and sorrow for sin, and 
may, through God's infinite mercy, have saved his soul 

II. The instruction and warning suggested by these 

They are connected with principles of great and perma- 
nent importance. They illustrate 

1. The power of conscience. 

Why should Belshazzar, on a festive occasion, be over- 
whelmed with terror at the sight of a miracle, which 
flattery might have interpreted into an omen of new 
glories ? The consciousness of general and recent guilt 
smote him — conscience told him that the invisible powers 
he insulted could not manifestly appear and interpose for 
his advantage. 

"Why should a proud tyrant hear a captive, whose life 
was at his disposal, accusing him so boldly and severely, 
without interruption or resentment ? Conscience laid her 
paralysing hand upon him. Conscience, armed for a season 
with irresistible powers, held absolute dominion over the 
despot, and said, be still. 

2. The vanity of the world, the feebleness, the less than 
nothingness of pomp, flattery, voluptuousness, dissipation, 
and profane amusement. How easily can God blast them 
all in a moment, and change the wild delirium of joy and 
grandeur to the intolerable agony of helpless, comfortless, 
desolate, unspeakable despair ! 

3. The use and responsibility of knowledge ; and espe- 
cially of the conviction resulting from the sight of God's 
judgments on others. When he inflicts signal vengeance 
on an individual or a nation, he expects and requires that 
spectators and survivors should humble their hearts before 
him and repent. 

4. The peril of pride and profaneness instanced in this 
particular example. Is there not reason to suspect that 


!men are just on the brink of perdition when they defy 
earth and heaven ! 

5. The terrors of the invisible world, and the inex- 
haustible instruments of divine wrath. If so small a 
manifestation was attended with such irresistible and 
intolerable horror, what will be the effect when all the 
appalling sights and sounds of the world of torment, all 
the hideous apparitions of the realm of darkness, burst on 
the astonished view of a departing soul ! 

6. The helplessness of guilt, when God riseth up. "In 
the same night was Belshazzar the king slain," and his 
kingdom destroyed. Jeremiah li. 39-57. 

7 The superiority of religious uprightness. What a 
shield, what a rock is piety ! How solid the grandeur of 
a man of God ! When the multitude are made to feel the 
powers of the world to come, the contempt and dishonour 
which appeared to them to cover the pious as a dirty veil, 
vanish in an instant. When the terrors of God are upon 
men, his servants appear to them invested with awful 
dignity, as almost more than mortal. 

Contrast the trembling, crest-fallen, frighted king with 
the calm magnanimity, the awful goodness, and divine 
authority of the prophet of the Lord. 

Let us now remind you of what you know. 

You know that there is a God. You know His holiness 
and severity. You have heard of His judgments, His 
threatenings have been sounded in your ears, His gospel 
has been offered to you. 

Have you known all this without effect? are you still 
un-humbled ? 

Are any of you profane ? Dare you sleep to-night for 
the terror of your offended God ? Does not your imagina- 
tion portray a visionary hand writing your sentence ? 
Does not your conscience see the balances of judgment 
held in heaven, and yourselves found wanting ? Are there 


no Belshazzars now, whose thoughts trouble them, because 
they have known much but have not humbled themselves, and 
who tremble under the weight of their guilty terrors ? If 
any of you have at present Belshazzar's feelings, ought you 
not to apprehend a punishment as certain and as dreadful, 
without a speedy and sincere repentance ? 

Consider the superiority of your religious privileges over 
those of Belshazzar, and your proportionate responsibility, 
who live in a Christian country, under the light and 
advantages of the dispensation of grace, and with the 
warnings and precepts of God's holy word. If he was 
judged for not having profited by the example of Nebu- 
chadnezzar, how will you answer for your unused and 
abused privileges ? " Thou hast not humbled thine heart, 
though thou knewest all this, but hast lifted up thyself 
against the Lord of heaven." let me warn and beseech 
you to presume no further on the forbearing mercy of 
God ! Delay not to humble your hearts before Him, lest 
punishment swiftly overtake you in your sins. " Kiss the 
Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when 
His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they 
that put their trust in Him." 




tt < 

' So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto 
Wisdom."— Psalm xc. 12. 

This Psalm is called in the Title, " A Prayer of Moses the 
Man of God ; " and the internal evidence, afforded by the 
Psalm itself, gives a high degree of probability to the 
inscription. Some indeed have supposed that the writer 
was not Moses the Lawgiver, but some pious Jew of that 
name in later times. But only one Moses is mentioned in 
the Scriptures; and that part of this Psalm which has 
sometimes been pointed out as implying that it could not 
have been composed by the Jewish legislator, will rather, 
% on examination, confirm the tradition, that he was the 

The tenth verse speaks of human life as being generally 
limited to an average of seventy years. Such a statement, 
it has been argued, was not likely to be made by one who 
retained perfect eyesight, and undiminished bodily strength, 
at the age of a hundred and twenty years ; and it has been 
doubted, whether the actual shortening of human life, to 
about seventy years, had become general and obvious in 
the time of Moses. 

But the record of a few lives, about his time, which 
exceeded seventy years, will prove no more concerning the 
average duration of life in those days, than the longevity 
of Thomas Parr or Henry Jenkins would prove concerning 
the average of modern lives. 

And what was the case of his own nation, in his own 
time, with which Moses was best acquainted ? The fact 


was, that the contraction of human life, to its present 
average, was more extensively and impressively placed 
under the observation of Moses and his co-evals, Caleb and 
Joshua, than before any other observers of mankind in any 
age or country. 

Moses led out of Egypt, through the Eed Sea, six hun- 
dred thousand men, of age to bear arms, besides women 
and children. Of that vast multitude, all who, when 
numbered in the second year after their deliverance, were 
twenty years old and upwards, were buried in the wilder- 
ness in the course of forty years. So that, when Moses 
went up to Mount Nebo, to survey the land he must not 
enter, only three of those who were numbered, namely, 
Moses, Caleb, and Joshua, remained alive. Of those who 
soon afterwards passed the Jordan, not one, besides Caleb 
and Joshua, could be sixty years old; though some of those 
who died before Moses might be eighty or upwards. 

Thus the greater part of that rebellious generation whom 
Moses had seen melt away in the wilderness, and who were 
men when they left Egypt, must have died under seventy 
years old. Towards the end of the forty years, Moses 
would rarely see an aged person. He would daily behold 
a young nation ; in which, at length, after Caleb and 
Joshua, none were so much as half his own age. 

It is appropriately said, in the ninth verse, concerning 
that discontented multitude of doomed wanderers, that 
"all" their "days" were "passed away in" God's "wrath," — 
that is, under a sentence of his oath, recorded in the xiv. 
of Numbers, that their children should wander in the 
wilderness till the bones of the fathers were laid in the 
dust ; so that, at the end of the appointed period of forty 
years, not one of the murinurers should be left above 

It is very suitably remarked in the tenth verse, that if, 
during the latter part of their wanderings, a few were so 


strong as to linger on at fourscore years, those hoary elders 
of a stubborn race had little cause -to rejoice in the hardy 
firmness of their constitution. With "labour and sorrow" 
they lived on ; knowing that they could not survive the 
forty years, and must lie down dead in the wilderness before 
their children could enter the promised land. 

The Psalm is nobly commenced with a sublime address 
to God on his own eternity. " Lord, thou hast been our 
dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains 
were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth 
and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou 
art God." v. 1, 2. These allusions to the mysterious, 
unoriginated, and eternal life of God, introduce, by way of 
strong contrast, those pensive and solemn reflections on the 
frail life of man, which are expressed in most of the 
remaining verses. 

The twelfth verse, which is our immediate subject, gives 
convenient occasion for considering the general scope of the 
£salm, and for bringing most of the parts to bear on those 
views of human life which are urged in the Psalm at large, 
and by the text in particular. 

I. The subject of the Psalm, and of the text, is human 

II. On this subject, the text expresses inspired views, 
in the form of supplication. 

I. The subject, human life, expressed by the phrase, 
"our days," is spoken of, both in the text and in 
the Psalm generally, as being at once transitory and 

The text speaks of it as made up of days which may be 
numbered; and as the only season for the gTeat work of 
applying our hearts unto wisdom. 

The Psalm contains picturesque and impressive repre- 
sentations, both of its transitory and its momentous 


1. By various bold and vivid figures, human life is 
exhibited in the Psalm as a brief and vanishing scene; 
while the text compactly expresses its brevity by speaking 
of it as consisting of days to be numbered. 

The inspired historian of generations in which men lived 
nearly a thousand years, describes even such an antedilu- 
vian life as being, in God's sight, " but as yesterday when 
it is past, and as a watch in the night." 

He compares the fleeting nature of man's life to a 
land-flood, which pours along for a few hours, and then 
leaves a dry channel, marked with ruins. He compares it 
to a sleep, which, when the slumberer awakes, seems but 
as a moment. He compares it to the grass of a season, in 
the morning green and flourishing, and in the evening cut 
down and withered. He compares it to a tale, a medita- 
tion, a reverie, mere passing thoughts ; a tale that is told, 
and which, when told again, has lost its freshness ; the 
events of a lifetime being in many respects but a stale 
repetition of what has happened before in the lives of 

2. The momentous character and influence of human life 
are most affectingly shewn by the brief and forcible state- 
ment of three solemn circumstances — that it is spent 
under the eye of the God of truth and holiness, under 
sentence of death, and in danger of incurring the wrath to 

The frail and sinful life of man is passed under the all- 
penetrating and incessant observation of the ever-living 
and omniscient Spirit, who said to the Israelites in the 
wilderness, " Ye shall be holy : for I, the Lord your God, 
am holy." Leviticus xix. 2. " Thou hast set our iniquities 
before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy counten- 
ance : " — words which convey the idea of a being, conscious 
of inexcusable defects and blemishes, placed amidst the 
intolerable illumination of the concentrated rays of a 
burning glass. 


Like the Israelites of that day, we spend our lives under 
sentence of death. " Thou turnest man to destruction, and 
sayest, Eeturn, ye children of men ; " which is an evident 
allusion to the doom pronounced on the guilty father of 
mankind. " Till thou return unto the ground : for out of it 
wast thou taken : for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou 
return." " For we are consumed by thine anger," says the 
Psalmist, in the seventh and ninth verses, "and by thy 
wrath are we troubled. For all our days are passed away 
in thy wrath." These sayings point not only to the 
punishment of the murmurers in the wilderness, but to the 
general sentence of death, and to the consequent expecta- 
tion of it, as portentously overshadowing all the days of 
mankind. Divine displeasure against sin is manifested 
by a penalty which hangs over every individual among the 
living ; so that we may correctly say of every man in his 
health and strength, that there is a general decree of the 
Almighty which efficaciously says, "Eeturn to the ground: 
—for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." It 
may also be said, in the name of all mortals, liable as they 
are to wasting disease, or to other forms of change and 
decay, the end of which is death, — " For we are consumed 
by thine anger, and by thy wrath are w T e troubled." And 
" all our days are passed away in thy wrath ; " because 
every day is passed under a liability to that mortal change, 
which is the inevitable effect of God's ancient and enduring 
displeasure against sin. 

We spend our short and uncertain lives under a solemn 
necessity for working out our salvation with fear and 
trembling, that we may escape the immeasurable evils of 
"the wrath to come." "Who knoweth the power of thine 
anger ? " etc., verse 1 1 ; rendered by an eminent foreign 
divine, " Who considereth the power of thine anger, and 
thy wrath, in proportion as it is terrible ? " — words which 
imply that our most awful conceptions of the wrath to 


come are far below the tremendous reality. Most persons, 
while thev feel constrained to acknowledge that life is 
short and uncertain, do not sufficiently consider its power- 
ful and decisive influence over the future ; — how, in these 
few years or days, so like a rushing flood, a dreamy sleep, 
the grass of a summer, a tale that is told, a meditation, or 
a reverie, we shall either escape or incur a boundless and 
cureless calamity. 

The momentous importance and power of this transient 
life of ours arise especially from its being not only the 
'proper, but the only season for the great work of applying 
our hearts unto wisdom — the wisdom that discerns opportu- 
nities, that foresees wants and dangers, and provides 
accordingly, by timely and resolute exertion. "Whatso- 
ever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might ; for 
there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, 
in the grave, whither thou goest." Departed souls may 
have powers of activity unknown to us, and surpassing all 
our notions of their peculiar condition, but no power to 
work out a neglected salvation. Their thoughts may con- 
trive or contemplate many devices, but no devices for 
recovering or substituting the wasted opportunities of the 
acceptable time, and day of salvation. Their knowledge is 
probably vast, and wonderful both in its nature and in the 
mode of acquisition; but no lost soul among them all can 
know the Lord as God his Saviour, when once long-suffering 
has given place to avenging terrors. "Wisdom to judge aright 
may be with the disembodied in an eminent degree; but to 
those who have died in their sins, it is the wisdom that 
comes too late, when the fatal mistake is already com- 
mitted, and no remedy remains. 

II. On the subject of human life, the text expresses 
inspired views, in the form of supplication. 

1. It teaches the nature and importance of a right 
estimate of human life. 


The importance of justly estimating our time on earth is 
implied by the prayer for instruction to number our days. 

The act of valuing or estimating moral and spiritual 
subjects, — such as the actions, motives, and dispositions 
of men, — is often expressed in the Scriptures by terms 
borrowed from the language of trade. Things are bought 
and sold by weight, measure, or number; and each of 
these modes of expressing quantity is figuratively employed 
in the sacred writings. The following passages are 
examples — " The Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him 
actions are weighed" 1 Samuel ii. 3. " The ways of man 
are before the eyes of the Lord, and He pondereth all his 
goings." Proverbs v. 21. "God hath numbered thy king- 
dom, and finished it/' — " Thou art weighed in the balances 
and art found wanting." Daniel v. 26, 27. "Lord make 
me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what 
it is ; that I may know how frail I am." Psalm xxxix. 4. 
Of the knowledge of God, as a subject of human investi- 
gation, it is said, "It is as high as heaven; what canst 
thou do ? deeper than hell ; what canst thou know ? The 
measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than 
the sea." Job xi. 8, 9. " Where shall wisdom be found ? 
and where is the place of understanding ? Man knoweth 
not the price thereof : — It cannot be gotten for gold, neither 
shall silver be weighed for the price thereof/' xxviii. 12-15. 

These various expressions have one general meaning 
when applied to moral or spiritual subjects. To weigh 
or ponder, to measure, or to number, is to estimate the 
quantity or value of what may be under consideration. 
To number is to estimate by count or tale; and stands here 
as a particular expression for a general one. To estimate 
or value is the meaning intended. 

Many appear to have made no estimate of life — of its 
probable duration and proper business. They have never 
earnestly thought — Why was I born ? Why am I spared ? 
Whither am I bound ? When shall I pass away ? 


Many have taken a false estimate of the probable duration 
of their own continuance on earth. While they admit 
the shortness and uncertainty of life as to men in general, 
they seem to have tacitly reserved their own case as an 

"All men think all men mortal but themselves." 

Hence though they have not actually and consciously 
concluded, as the result of comparison and calculation, 
that they shall live always, they act as if they had so 

Such persons also take a false estimate of the great pur- 
poses of life. To secure ease, amusement, gross pleasures, 
sordid gain, — to maintain and establish a family, — to build 
up a high reputation, — to rise above equals, — to die rich, — 
or even to vegetate and rot near the place of their birth, 
like a plant, without object, or plan, or affection, — are 
amongst the various paltry ends for which multitudes seem 
to be living. 

The true estimate is according to what has been already 
deduced from the observations in this Psalm. Life is 
transitory, but momentous; — a brief, but awful introduction 
to an endless and mysterious future; — a short, decisive 
passage to nothing less than heaven or hell. 

The importance of a right estimate is apparent from the 
transcendent character of those immense realities, unspeak- 
ably glorious or terrible, which it brings forth to view, and 
presses on our attention; and from the fact that the 
mistakes of carelessness on this subject are dreadfully 
ruinous. He who has taken no thought, and he whose 
thoughts on this subject are wrong, are in danger of being 
lost for ever. Eight views are necessary in order to a 
right use of life ; and therefore indispensable as the means 
to avoid even a worse result than living in vain. 

2. The text expresses inspired views on what has last 


been pointed out,«— the connection of a right estimate with 
a right application. The great benefit, the profitable use 
of our being taught to number our days is — that it will 
incline us to apply our hearts unto wisdom. 

The good effects of the correct views obtained by thorough 
religious consideration are various, — such as — rational dis- 
trust of temporal enjoyments and possessions, regarding 
ourselves as but tenants -at-will, — moderate desire and 
and pursuit of the things of time and sense, — practical 
conviction of the essential absurdity of avarice, ambition, 
and all the mental vices, — patient endurance of incon- 
veniences and afflictions, — sobriety of mind, neither 
intoxicated nor tantalized with vain joys or delusive 

The most valuable result is — to learn that far-seeing, 
sure-aiming prudence, that most excellent and profitable 
wisdom, which, in the fear of God, subordinates all other 
concerns to the paramount and indispensable purpose of 
providing for a mysterious and endless future. To apply 
our hearts unto wisdom, is heartily to seek and obey that 
wisdom which begins in the fear of the Lord; it is to 
prepare to meet God; to use effectually the means of 
salvation; to come to Christ, take his yoke upon us and 
learn of him, that we may be wise unto salvation. 

A solemn sense of the matter of fact — that this life is a 
short passage to one of the two everlasting abodes, heaven 
or hell, — will naturally tend to engage our hearts in the 
pursuit of wisdom, and in obedience to it when attained. 
Such was the effect on those elders, those ancient worthies, 
who by faith " confessed that they were strangers and 
pilgrims on the earth/' and "obtained a good report;" the 
written word of God bearing permanent testimony, from 
the days of the prophets to the end of the world, that they 
" pleased him." 

3. The great and certain means of securing both right 


views, and an effectual application of such views to the 
conduct of life, is Divine teaching, sought by earnest 

Mere moral reflections on human life, however just or 
profound, often avail chiefly to produce deep, habitual 
despondency. To survey life only in its circumstances of 
shortness, uncertainty, frailty, struggles, disappointments, 
miseries, and decay, without looking above and beyond it, 
leads naturally to querulous inactivity. Worldly moralists 
and philosophers have often and eloquently displayed the 
vanity of life ; but they and their disciples have remained 
strangers to its right use, and to the power and means of 
making it blessed. 

And when right views are presented, and authenticated 
by Divine testimony, it is not merely the hearing or read- 
ing of the truth that will suffice. Many both know and 
acknowledge what the Scriptures say on these subjects, 
and verbally assent to the appeals and expostulations of 
Christ's messengers, who yet continue to regard life in a 
vain, worldly, frivolous, sordid, idolatrous manner, and do 
not apply their hearts unto wisdom. 

Divine teaching, the teaching of the Holy Spirit, can 
alone give us true views of life, or persuade and enable us 
to apply our hearts, our whole mind, will, and affection, to 
the practical following out of such principles. 

This indispensable teaching will be effectually given to 
those who sincerely pray for it. Preventing grace, which is 
the grace which precedes conversion, is largely bestowed 
on multitudes who are never converted ; because they do 
not "truly repent, and unfeignedly believe the gospel;" 
and who was ever converted of whom it could not pre- 
viously be said — " Behold, he prayeth ? " 

You who have been " seeking rest, and finding none ; " 
incessantly dissatisfied and disappointed, even in the 
season of success ; behold the cause of the vanity and 


vexation you ha^e been unable to escape ! — you have been 
misled by false views of life; or you have neglected 
to pray earnestly for Divine teaching, to enable you so to 
consider and understand the whole matter, that you may 
terminate the sad series of errors and vexations, by hence- 
forth applying your hearts unto wisdom. 

Dr. Doddridge, whose eminently holy and useful life was 
closed above a hundred years ago, [1751,] had for the motto 
of his family arms, a short Latin sentence, signifying, 
" Live while you live ; " which he thus paraphrased in 
verse, — 

" Live while you live, the epicure would say, 
Enjoy the pleasures of the passing day : 
Live while you live, the sacred preacher cries, 
And give to God each moment as it flies : 
Lord, in my. life let both united be — 
I live in pleasure while I live to Thee." 

Our own Christian poet compactly expresses the main 
truth on these subjects in the line — 

"Wisdom, and Christ, and heaven, are one." 

Eespecting the eminent servant and minister of Christ, 
who has now been removed from us, it was generally 
known, previously to any account of his last moments, 
that he received divine teaching in the morning of life, 
enabling and disposing him to apply his heart unto 
wisdom ; and that the time must have been little short 
of sixty years during which he had consistently and 
unfalteringly persevered in the paths of true godliness. 
Such a blameless course of action could not on other 
principles have been so long maintained. 

The following narrative, which, in substance, was 
supplied from Easingwold, evinces chiefly the holy calm- 
ness, the bright serenity, with which, by the blessing of 
God, he was enabled to pass through the valley of the 


shadow of death ; and shews, what might most reasonably 
have been expected, his life of mercies crowned with a 
triumphant end. 

The Eev. Eobert Newton, D.D., was born at Boxby, a 
village near the sea coast between Whitby and Guisbro', in 
the North-Eiding of Yorkshire, on the 8th of September, 
1780. In early youth he saw by the light of the Holy 
Spirit, his need of salvation ; and while in the exercise of 
private prayer, was enabled so to trust in Christ, as to find 
"redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of 
sins." At the age of eighteen he began to proclaim to his 
fellow-sinners "the unsearchable riches of Christ;" and 
was called to the regular ministry, by Christ and His 
church, before he was nineteen. 

Of his subsequent course, and his appointments to the 
principal circuits in the Wesleyan Connexion, nothing 
need now be said in detail. His travels and labours in 
England, Ireland, and America, are known among various 
communities of the church of Christ. Nor is it needful to 
dwell here on his uniform kindness and Christian love to 
his fellow-men. After having preached the glorious gospel, 
with extraordinary diligence and success, for upwards of 
half a century, his increasing infirmities constrained him 
to retire from the public ministry at the Conference of 
1852, and his name appears on the Minutes as a supernu- 
merary, residing at Southport; but Easingwold was the 
place chosen as his last earthly home. For some months 
before his decease, he frequently expressed to his family 
his earnest desire to see them " all comfortably settled at 
Easingwold," — a desire which was accomplished some time 
before the commencement of his last sickness. 

He arrived at Easingwold on Tuesday, the 1 1th of April, 
1854; and when the superintendent called to congratulate 
him on his arrival, and to express a hope that he might yet 


be spared for some time to afford us his help and counsel, 
he very cheerfully, but solemnly remarked, — " Thank you, 
sir, but my work is done." 

On the evening preceding his illness, he observed to a 
friend, that the tabernacle was being gently taken down, 
to prepare him for a better state of being. On the follow- 
ing morning, Mrs. Newton read the first chapter of 
Hebrews as the lesson at family worship, and his prayer 
consisted of a beautiful running comment on that chapter, 
which refers to the Godhead and atonement, and final 
exaltation of Christ. He referred in conclusion to his own 
infirm health, and prayed that Christ might be magnified 
in his body, whether by life or by death. A few minutes 
after prayer, Mrs. Newton entered the room, and found 
him very ill ; and it soon became evident that his end was 
approaching. After remaining apparently unconscious for 
several hours, he gradually rallied, and appeared to be 
engaged in prayer. To the inquiry, "Do you feel Christ 
precious?" he replied, "Oh, yes; Christ Jesus attesting 
and blessing;" and soon after said, "I have every happi- 
ness." " Christ is mine and I am His." " I shall soon be 
with Him for ever." " Christ is my rock." He then said 
to one of his daughters, "pray for a happy exit." He then 
prayed for his family with expressions of earnest trust in 
the mercy of God. When one of his daughters quoted 
the lines — 

"Away, sad doubt, and anxious fear ! 
Mercy is all that's written there." 

he sweetly smiled and said, " I have no fear, — I have no 
alarm, — •' perfect love casteth out fear.' " He frequently 
said " God is good "— " God is with us "— " God is love," 
and several times alluded to his death as a falling asleep : 
an anticipation which the event realised. 

Some hours before his departure, the Eev. J. Eossell 
inquired — " Doctor, have you now the strong consolation in 


Christ Jesus, which you have so long recommended to 
others ? " to which he at once replied with delightful 
impressiveness, " Yes, yes." To this visit, and the prayer 
offered up in his behalf, he made pleasing allusion after- 
wards — praying for heaven's best blessing to rest upon the 

His attachment to, and confidence in, our beloved Metho- 
dism, seemed (if that were possible) to increase, when 
viewing it from that margin of eternity upon which he 
then stood. " Methodism" he observed, " Methodism, is 
the work of God — I am a Methodist, a Methodist preacher, 
— Glory be to God, — An old Methodist preacher." But 
though a Methodist, he was no bigot : hence one of the 
petitions of the last prayer to which his family listened, 
was " God bless the church of England." 

Thus for nearly five days, he continued gradually sinking, 
though often with a smile which seemed borrowed from 
that world to which he was hastening. His strong con- 
stitution retained its hold of life longer than is usual in 
such cases. On Saturday morning, he once more bade 
farewell to all his family, and then uttered with great 
energy, among others, the following sayings: — "the preaching 
that flows from the heart does good every day " — " he that 
believeth shall never die " — " Christ Jesus, the ransom of 
sinners and the life of the dead " — " fear sin, not death." 
After which, sinking back exhausted, he said, " going — 
going — going to glory " — " farewell sin, farewell death " — 
" praise the Lord," — and fell asleep about noon, from which 
he awoke no more, slumbering on for many hours till the 
summons came, and he was received into the immediate 
presence of the Lord, about four o'clock on the following 
morning, April 30. 

In attempting to give a general view of the character of 
the great and good man, who has thus been taken frorm 



among us, — whiTe avoiding the error of claiming for him 
a general pre-eminence, or of assuming that he had no 
frailties— we are free from the perplexity which must 
arise from a consciousness of something to be plausibly 
concealed, or to be tenderly passed over. In this case 
there are no concealments required, no apologies to be made. 
The public labours of Dr. Newton, — labours various 
and abundant, and almost without parallel, — have rendered 
his life nearly a public one, from early youth to declining 
age ; so that he might almost have said to our part of the 
Israel of God, in the words of aged Samuel, — " I have 
walked before you from my childhood to this day. Behold, 
here I am : witness against me before the Lord." 1 Sam. 
xii. 2, 3. 

In the course of his " labours more abundant" it is 

believed, with great probability, that, in behalf of religious 

and benevolent institutions, he travelled more miles, 

delivered more sermons and public addresses, and obtained 

a larger aggregate of contributions, than any other minister 

of the gospel in his time. That he should go through such 

labours, with the buoyant energy of which thousands were 

delighted witnesses, might be accounted for by referring to 

his rare endowments of body and mind, which enabled him 

to hold on his peculiar course with untiring alacrity ; and 

to his unexampled popularity, which rendered it difficult 

tor a minister of his kind disposition to avoid an incessant 

series ot solicitations and public engagements. During 

bv T^^f, ™^ and genera11 ^ fo ™ d him seated 

by a large table covered with io++„ • • . i 

considered and answered- ylt I J" T re( l mrm g to be 

cu. , yet 1 never he d f 

expression of impatience, at the tax on h f A 

attention which such a correspondence involved Btrt 
admirable Christian propriety with which he hid ■ 

pure and shining way, through the duties and tern J^- hlS 



of such a life, must have had a deeper cause than gifts of 
nature or favourable circumstances. Had he not been 
habitually walking humbly with God, and from youth to 
age, with steadfast purpose, applying his heart unto wisdom, 
how could he have so happily escaped the silken snares 
and dangerous illusions of popular favour? To see delighted 
crowds looking and listening with eager admiration, — to be 
applauded in public, and welcomed in private, by old and 
new friends, in all parts of his native land, and wherever 
he appeared as a minister of Christ elsewhere, — were 
as common to him as his daily bread. Yet such were 
the wisdom and gentleness with which he pursued the 
even tenour of his way, that he might have said before 
many witnesses — " Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor 
mine eyes lofty ; neither do I exercise myself in great 
matters, or in things too high for me. — My soul is even as 
a weaned child." 

In many respects the moral excellence of his character, 
viewed in connexion with his fine natural endowments, his 
early piety, and long tried faithfulness, leaves room for 
doubt as to how much of that excellence was founded in 
original happiness of disposition, how much was the 
operation of the grace of God in him, and how much was 
the result of self-culture and self-discipline. But we cannot 
be far wrong in allowing a large share of influence, in his 
case, to each of these powerful causes. 

His personal character was unaffectedly manly and noble. 
There is obvious truth in the remark that he was one of 
nature's noblemen. The charm of manner which attended 
his presence, whether speaking or listening, in public or in 
private, appeared to be but the outward and visible sign of 
what was honourable and glorious within. 

Yet, in his well-balanced nature and habits, nobleness was 
well combined with Christian prudence. He had no eccen- 
tricities, no whims, no oddities, no crotchets. A manly 


soundness of judgment rendered it impossible for this class 
of weaknesses to have a place in his mind or life. His 
excellent disposition and Christian kindness rendered his 
dignified bearing open and affectionate ; while a sagacious 
presence of mind enabled him to observe a discreet caution 
without a reserved manner. 

When occasion required, he was found no less distin- 
guished by fortitude in the path of integrity. If the 
faithful performance of what he deemed his duty was 
likely to displease many admiring friends, he did not as a 
man-pleaser, jealously guard his popularity at the expense 
of principle ; but boldly east his popularity into the scale 
of right ; taking his stand with truth and duty at all 
hazards ; and cheerfully bearing any reproach which came 
as the result of Christian fidelity. In fact his extraordin- 
ary^ popularity was not an artificial, but a real and natural 
thing : not a laboured and fragile structure, built up with 
careful and dexterous handling of frail materials ; but a 
vigorous plant of renown, deeply rooted, of majestic height, 
with extended branches and perennial verdure. 

In the widely diversified scenes of social intercourse 
amidst which he moved, his condescending courtesy and 
kindness were seen and felt by persons of all classes. If, 
on his first visit to a place, he had been kindly received as 
the guest of a family in humble life, he would not afterwards 
be tempted away to sumptuous mansions. He acted, as 
much as any disciple we have known, on the rule — " Go 
not from house to house." 

The circuits in which he was stationed, and the congre- 
gations he visited by invitation, had alike occasion, from, 
uniform experience, to depend on his considerate and 
conscientious punctuality. 

Eminent and admired as he was in his own walk of 
excellence, he did not affect universality of accomplish- 
ment. A close observer in the Conference, or in the social 



circle, might easily perceive that there were some kinds of 
mental exercise which he did not sedulously cultivate ; but 
which, at the same time, he was far from undervaluing or 
depreciating. He often and gracefully expressed a generous 
and just appreciation of talents and services very different 
from his own. 

In all these various and combined forms of goodness, 
there might be discerned the ruling influence of long- 
formed principles, pervading his thoughts, feelings, labours, 
and deportment, with the steadfast purposes of a mind 
taught of God to estimate life aright, and to apply the 
heart unto wisdom. 

A man of such singular eminence might be presumed to 
have obvious mental characteristics. It might almost be 
said that the hand-writing of Dr. Newton's mind was 
familiarly known and read of all men. Strong sense, and 
sound evangelical divinity were the basis of his sermons. 
I first heard him in the spring of 1817, having gone 
fourteen miles for the purpose. It is impossible to reckon 
the number of times I have since heard him, always with 
pleasure and profit, often with admiration. For more than 
thirty years I have maintained that those who accounted 
for the wonderful impression of his preaching chiefly on 
the ground of his delivery, did injustice to the intrinsic 
excellence of his sermons. The matter, arrangement, and 
language were excellent. In the management of his 
subjects he evinced a degree of artistic skill, which is 
often wanting in preachers who are more ambitiously 
intellectual. His style was at once easy, elegant, per- 
spicuous, and forcible; and, of late years, much vnricd 
according to the subject and occasion. He had, in an 
extraordinary measure, the precious power of investing 
common or neglected truth with lively and attractive 
interest. For the great purposes of Christian instruction, 
such a power is more valuable and efficacious than even 


originality of thought. Dr. Newton so preached the great 
doctrines and common truths of Christianity, that persons 
of all degrees of mental culture found it a delight to listen 
to him ; and multitudes were thus willingly engaged in 
hearing the very principles they had previously neglected 
or despised, most impressively and persuasively recom- 

Those who have sometimes spoken of the matter of his 
sermons as common-place, are little aware that they 
unwittingly betray their ignorance. I have ascertained 
that many persons use this phrase when they mean 
nothing which would not be more properly expressed by 
the single word — common. It is by the mere force of 
ignorant or careless usage that these two expressions have 
become at all exchangeable terms. Hearing well-informed 
persons speak of common-place appropriately, ignorant 
persons have applied it blunderingly, as an equivalent for 
common, and as a more learned and refined phrase. Many 
who pragmatically decide that certain sermons are common- 
place, have yet to learn what is properly signified by the 

The ancient Sophists were the first inventors of 
common-places, or sources of arguments or remarks 
common to subjects of every kind, They pointed out, as an 
aid to invention, that things to be spoken of, however 
different from each other, had such points in common, as 
genus, species, cause, effect, antecedents, consequents, like-' 
ness, contrariety, circumstances of time and place, and 
many others. They undertook that their disciples, by the 
use of these helps, should be able to speak copiously and 
plausibly on every subject ; though their knowledge of the 
things spoken of might be very scanty and superficial ; 
and though they might use this mechanical system to 
evade the labour of solid research and earnest meditation. 
The matter collected and exhibited by such means must 


generally have been trivial, and very little to the purpose 
either of instruction or persuasion. 

But to speak of the great and paramount truths of the 
gospel, — truths not discovered or invented by man, but 
revealed from heaven, — in such a manner as to rouse the 
supine, to interest the careless, to excite the lukewarm, to 
awe the profane, to animate the dejected, to confirm the 
wavering, to disarm the prejudiced, and to command the 
attention of all, — though the things thus spoken of should 
be as common as sin or grace, as temptation or remorse, — 
to do this demands treasures and powers of mind not to be 
found, or created, or substituted by a recourse to common- 
places. The expression would be most improperly used 
in describing the matter or quality of Dr. Newton's sermons. 
The commonness of the important and saving truths he 
mainly dwelt upon and successfully enforced, connected as 
it was with the very wcommon attractiveness and power 
of his manly eloquence, was not a fault to be excused, but 
a merit to be gratefully acknowledged. 

It must have been evident to all discerning and candid 
minds, that in him there was a fine combination of glorious 
faculties ; the admirable result of which was an eminently 
great, good, amiable, useful, happy man ; and, altogether, 
such a master of sacred eloquence, that, as was truly said 
in a felicitous paper in the Watchman, [May 3rd,] he can 
have NO SUCCESSOE. We shall never look upon his like 

He did not become great by being an imitator ; and no 
one has imitated him with success. God may, and probably 
will, raise up men as eloquent and as useful ; but those 
future worthies in our Israel will not be copies, not 
artificial ; but true, unaffected men. 

In his fidelity to Christ, his benevolence, diligence, and 
consistent perseverence, we may, and ought to follow him. 
Happy shall we be, if, like him, we are found faithful, 


and at last ready, so that we may as joyfully depart. 
In his case the wflrds of the Christian poet were happily 
exemplified — 

" Submissive to Thy just decree, 

We all shall soon from earth remove ; 
But when thou sendest, Lord, for me, 

O let the messenger be love ! 
Whisper Thy love into my heart, 

Warn me of my approaching end ; 
And then I joyfully depart ; 

And then I up to heaven ascend." 

For such happiness to be ours, we also must earnestly 
pray for, and submissively receive divine teaching, that we 
may rightly number our days, and effectually apply our 
hearts unto wisdom. 


" I know not the day of my death." — Genesis xxvii. 2. 

The near approach of a new year is one of those circum- 
stances which impressively remind us of the progress of 
time: the general and regular progress of time carries with 
it the progress of each individual life : and the progress of 
life is continually bearing us onward to its inevitable 
termination — the day of our death. Another year will soon 
be numbered with the thousands that have passed since 
the creation : another year will soon be added to the lives 
of hundreds of millions of human beings ; or, rather, to 
speak more strictly according to the actual course of 
things, another year will soon have completely gone from 
us and our innumerable fellow beings, into the regions of 
the past ; beyond our reach or control ; and the march of 
time, destined to conclude with the day of judgment, will 
have advanced a year nearer to its last step. 

The words of the text were spoken by the patriarch 
Isaac, and concisely express the common conviction of all 
thoughtful persons. All who reflect, acknowledge that thpy 
know not the day of their death. But the patriarch's reflec- 
tion was not an instance of insipid, formal, barren, moral- 
ising. His solemn thought was followed up with consistent 
action. His sense of the uncertainty of life determined 
him to give immediate practical attention to his earnest 
purposes, without presumptuously or indolently speculating 
on future possible opportunities. 

This reflection of the Hebrew patriarch was connected 
with his wish and intention to bless Esau before he died. 
" And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his 
eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his 
eldest son, and said unto him, My son ; and he said unto 


him, Behold, here am I. And he said, Behold now, I am 
old, I know not the day of my death : Now therefore, take, 
I pray thee, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the 
field, and take me some venison ; and make me savoury 
meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat ; 
that my soul may bless thee before I die." 

The blessings pronounced by the holy patriarchs on 
their children, were not merely expressions of a father's 
kind wishes and prayers; they were inspired predictions, 
giving a bold and firm outline of the great events which 
would interest their posterity for about two thousand years. 
But Isaac, though a prophet, and even when he foretold 
the distant times of Herod the Great, an Edomite, in whose 
person Esau had the dominion seventeen hundred and 
sixty years after Isaac blessed his sons, confessed that he 
knew not the day of his own death. 

It would be a waste of time and words to attempt 
seriously to prove to you that you know not the day of 
your death. Certainly none of us dispute the statement, 
though many of us are probably wanting in a practical and 
religious regard to this very plain and important fact. 
The common fault is not ignorance or denial of this fact, 
but inattention, — neglecting to lay it to heart. 

Instead of labouring to prove what no one denies, or to 
explain what all understand, we shall be better employed 
in considering the weighty, rational consequences, which 
this acknowledgment of our common ignorance involves. 

These consequences are of two kinds : 

I. Matters of common concern. 

II. Matters of common religious prudence. 

I. Matters of common concern. The awful mixture of 
the known and unknown in our present mysterious state of 

1. That some future day will be the day of our death is 
known — what day UNknown. 


A day is coining when we shall be actually dying. 

God could reveal it, but He reserves this among the 
secret things. Doubtless there are good reasons for the 
concealment ; but it is an awful secret. 

2. This unknown coming day will end our state of trial. 
It is known that it will end it ; how ?mknown. 

This life is our oxly state of probation. After death 
there is no new course of trial, — but the judgment. 

Death is the end of life, — therefore as we know not 
when life will end, we know not the measure or bounds of 
our state of trial. 

While we live, various small, frequent, and almost 
imperceptible influences are powerfully and constantly 
operating upon us ; not the least of these influences being 
our own conduct, in thought, word, and deed; — these 
influences are gradually forming, changing or fixing the 
prevailing character of our mind, heart, and habits. The 
day of death, so inevitable, so hidden, comes at last, and 
finally fixes the character it finds. Until the day of our 
death we are acquiring, whether we intend it or not, a 
title, a qualification, and a readiness for our eternal 

We are even now ready for one of the two worlds. 
Were we to die this year, within the brief space that 
remains of it, our case would not iu any degree perplex the 
judge of all, nor would there be any suspense in the divine 
mind as to our proper sentence. 

Only until the day of our death can we exert the awful 
power of choice. 

3. This unknown expected day may be very near — we 
know not how near. The times of the antediluvians are 

jSTo sensible person expects to live longer than the 
average of mankind. 


Every reasonable person in years will assent to the 
saying, Behold now, I am old, and therefore cannot live 
long ; but I know not the day of my death. It is at hand 
in the course of nature, but various forms of sudden death 
may anticipate the process of natural decay. If we assume 
the probability of our living, not merely as long as most, 
but, as long as any of all that are now among the living, 
still, the day is at hand ; but we know not the number of 
our days, nor the name of our dying day. 

4. This unknown, inevitable day is known to be 
approaching, but its stealthy footsteps are unseen and 
unheard, like an enemy marching to the attack behind 
dark woods or dense fog. 

Time moves in a way so soft and still, that we need the 
alarm of revolving periods — seasons, years, and centuries — 
to remind us that it really does move. By an incessant 
gliding step from moment to moment, time has calmly 
travelled on without hurry or effort, through the thousands 
of years since God said, " Let there be light," etc., " and 
the evening and the morning were the first day." By a 
moment at a time we have travelled on from infancy to 
our present state of maturity or decay. But the march of 
death is as silent to our ear, as hidden from our eye, as 
ever. The boundless future is immediately before us, but 
a veil is upon it, — a veil of clouds and thick darkness. 
By faith we know something of that awful future, as well 
as the wonderful and various fact : but even faith discerns 
not the day of our death. 

5. It is known that to make us forget this day, and to 
neglect our preparation for it, is the object of many tempta- 
tions ; but the tempter, like the day, keeps himself con- 
cealed. What would be our horror and anxiety if we 
could occasionally perceive his dreadful proximity ! The 
multitude consequently live as if the slow succession of 
moments could never fill up the appointed period. The 


love of the world and the example of others, make us 
willing and prone to forget that death is approaching. 

6. This unknown, inevitable day will bring a moment 
like the day itself — as unknown — but its decisive influence 
still more concentrated and formidable — the moment of 
giving up the ghost. 

The last moment is like life itself condensed to a point. 

It is for all life's purposes the last opportunity. 

It stamps the seal of unalterable fate on the eternity 
that follows. 

II. Consider the matters of religious prudence which 
this subject involves, that is, 

What course of safe and effectual precaution our myste- 
rious and momentous position requires. 

We acknowledge that we know not the day of our death, 
but to confess this truth is not enough ; we should not let 
it be a barren reflection, but make it a ground of action. 

Suppose any of us could be so irrational or perverse as 
to deny it — what then ? What conduct might be expected 
from a person who would seriously contradict this doctrine 
of common sense ? 

There have been cases of mental derangement, in which 
the person has been mad on one single subject, and rational 
on others. 

Suppose a madman to be deranged only on this point ; 
to be persuaded that he had received a particular and 
private revelation assuring him that he should live a 
certain great number of years, or that he was so deluded 
as to fancy he had discovered a medicine which would 
triumph over all diseases and preserve life without end. 
There have actually been philosophical madmen who 
affirmed that there was no necessity for dying, and that 
they could themselves live as long as they would. 

How might a man so demented or infatuated on one 
point be expected to act ? 


Under the influence of the carnal mind, such a person 
would follow, without restraint, the devices and desires of 
his own heart. He would begin many things, would 
enthusiastically undertake various temporal enterprises, 
unchecked by any fear of not living to finish them. He 
would either indulge himself without fear, or (as a different 
natural temper might prompt him) would provide and lay 
up in store without limit. In short, he would act as 
worldly men do act ; but he would be consistent — they are 
most palpably inconsistent. 

But the plain truth which the text expresses, and which 
we all acknowledge, requires imperatively a safe course of 
precaution adapted to the exigency of our mysterious and 
momentous situation. 

It requires not only some precautions ; but such as will 
make us safe, and keep us so. 

The elements of such precaution are comprised in 
selection, order, diligence, constant and complete readiness. 

Is The acknowledged brevity of life demands thoughtful 
selection in our objects : within this brief period we cannot 
find time for many pursuits which in different circum- 
stances might seem desirable : we must therefore seek 
what is best — " First the kingdom of God and His right- 
eousness." The greatest and highest objects of human life 
are expressed in two lines : — 

" To glorify my God below, 
And find my way to heaven." 

Christ " is the way, the truth, and the life." 

2. The known uncertainty of life, the hidden- state of its 
last portion, should teach us the prudence and importance 
of attending to its best and most indispensable purposes 


The greatest purposes of life are those which will yield 
most satisfaction at its end. 


First, be safe ; then useful ; then happy. 

3. Both together, — brevity and uncertainty, — require 
diligence in attending to the best and most necessary 

4. The momentous influence of our final hour requires 
constant and complete readiness. Many things, if we do 
them amiss the first time, may be better done the second 
time. We have but once to die : this must be done well 
first or never. 

Be ye ready : " for in such an hour as ye think not the 
Son of Man cometh." 

Watch and pray and strive that when that day, that 
hour, that moment may arrive, it may not overtake you as 
a thief. 


"The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and 
delivereth them."— Psalm xxxiv. 7. 

In the former part of this Psalm, David praises the Lord 
for gracious deliverance from his own peculiar troubles-, 
and calls upon his brethren to rejoice with him, and to 
join in his zealous and devout thanksgivings. He speaks 
like one so fully impressed with great and recent mercies 
as to be ready to say — I can never doubt again. In this 
verse he passes on from the grateful acknowledgment of 
his own mercies, to the general fact : the divine care and 
protection assured to all truly godly persons. He then 
exhorts others to make the goodness and faithfulness of 
God matter of personal experiment. "0 taste and see that 
the Lord is good : blessed is the man that trusteth in him. 

rear the Lord, ye his saints ; for there is no want to them 
that fear him. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger : 
but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." 
He then offers to instruct any who are willing to learn the 
fear of the Lord. " Come, ye children, hearken unto me : 

1 will teach you the fear of the Lord." He concludes the 
Psalm with various weighty and animating testimonies,, 
concerning the certain deliverance of the godly from the 
sorrows and perils of time, and from the mightier evils 
which await the wicked in eternity. 

The Psalm contains impressive allusions to Christ. 
" Many are the afflictions of the Just One," so the word 
" righteous " is rendered in some instances ; and in Paul's 
defence before the Jews at Jerusalem, he thus reports the 
words of Ananias to him at Damascus, " The God of our 
fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know His 
will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice: 


of His mouth." Acts xxii. 14. Also in verse 20, it is 
written, " He keepeth all his bones : not one of them is 

The closely connected parts of the subject set before us 
in these words, are 

The expressed character, 

The implied militant state, 

The divine safeguard, — of the sort of persons spoken of; 
them that fear the Lord. 

I. Their expressed character, them that fear Him. 

The substance of the character, thus briefly given, is 
true religion. Fear, a part of personal religion, or godli- 
ness ; — reverential fear, controlling the thoughts, feelings, 
and actions, is, by a natural figure of speech, mentioned 
here, as a part representing the whole. The natural ground 
of this is — that, even in the case of machines, consisting 
of inanimate parts, so connected as to be acted upon by a 
motive power, such as wind, water, or steam, or an elastic 
spring, or a weight and pulley ; the actual working of the 
machine shows that the necessary parts are there, and are 
properly connected with each other, and with the power 
that moves them. When we see the hands move on the 
face of a clock, or hear the clock strike, we know that the 
necessary parts are there and are properly connected. And 
in things having life, it is still more obvious, that a part 
often implies the whole. Thus blossoms or fruit on a tree 
presuppose a root, and vital sap, and tubes of living fibre, 
through which the sap circulates. Thus Paul speaks of the 
fruit, not fruits, of the Spirit : apparently meaning to 
suggest, that love, joy, peace, etc., do not exist separately 
and independently ; but are vitally associated and actively 
combined, in the thoughts, and feelings, and life, of those 
who are born of, and led by, the Spirit of grace. 

The fear of the Lord, is a phrase commonly used in the 
Old Testament, to express true godliness, as a principle in 



operation. Under the Mosaic dispensation, any one who 
truly feared God, would be a pious Israelite ; loving God's 
law, and keeping it. Under the Christian dispensation, 
the fear of God, is nothing less than personal Christianity, 
or the truth as it is in Jesus, believed, loved, obeyed, 
and enjoyed. He who, in a Christian country, is not himself 
Christian indeed, gives proof that he does not fear God 
sufficiently to obey Him in following Christ; that he dares 
disobey God in the chief things He requires. "This is 
the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath 
sent/' John xvi. 29. 

Worldly and wicked men have a sort of fear of God, 
which is chiefly guilty dread. Thus Ahab feared, when he 
had heard the threatenings of the Lord by Elijah. And 
God said to the prophet, " Seest thou how Ahab humbleth 
himself before me?" 1 Kings xxi 29. Such men fear God 
as the wolf fears the well-armed shepherd : but God's 
people fear him rather as the shepherd's dog fears his 
master, with a loving fear. He fears him ; but at the same 
time draws nigh to him, and comes to his feet. He loves 
and obeys him ; observes his voice, his eye, his hand ; 
regards and follows all his directions. 

Penitents have, at one and the same time, the spirit of 
bondage, .the guilty fear; and the desire to please, with 
the fear of offending ; the fear that follows sin ; and the 
fear that restrains from it. 

The fear of the Lord is a very broad, plain, and 
characteristic distinction of His people. The inhabitants 
of the world comprise these two separate and remarkably 
comprehensive classes, — those who fear, and those who 
fear not 

Those that fear God, is a description which includes true 
penitents along with believers. But a true penitent will 
hardly feel assured that his repentance is genuine and 
sincere,'* till he has the witness of the Spirit, with his 
spirit, that God has accepted and pardoned him. 


The true aud effectual fear of God is no man's natural 
disposition. It is a result of operations of grace. And 
the process of attainment is regular ; including conviction, 
of our natural and actual sinfulness ; a conviction wrought 
by the Holy Spirit, and yielded to with penitential feeling; 
repentance, including contrition, amendment of life, sub- 
mission to the government of God ; a believing confidence, 
a resolved and practical reliance ; which, as to the power, 
is the gift of God, while it is also the proper act of the 
penitent heart, trusting in the covenanted mercy of God, 
through the atonement and mediation of Jesus Christ. 
But there is too much reason to suspect, that some who 
profess to fear God, are deceiving themselves, in a manner, 
M'hich in substance exemplifies the crude and corrupt 
notions of the heathen strangers, whom the king of Assyria 
transplanted from various countries to occupy the vacant 
lands and cities of the ten tribes in the kingdom of 
Samaria. They, the people of those nations, " feared the 
Lord, and served their graven images, both their children 
and their children's children; as did their fathers." Thus 
many, it is to be feared, under the influence of servile 
formalism, submit to various kinds and degrees of restraint, 
and to burdensome observances ; but retain the idols of the 
heart, and are still fast bound in the chains of evil habits ; 
serving God in outward things, and being still essentially 
worldly ; lovers of money, lovers; of pleasure, or slaves of 
fashion or custom. 

Enslaved to sense, to pleasure prone, 
Fond of created good. 

As really idolators in spirit, as the imported foreigners who 
were sent to occupy the country of the ten tribes. So great 
is the danger of self-deception, through " the deceitfulness 
of sin," and through the treachery of the evil heart of our 
fallen nature, which "is deceitful above all things, and 
desperately wicked," and so insidious and malicious are 


the devices of the adversary of souls, that those who take 
comfort in the consciousness, that they fear God, have 
need to "rejoice with trembling," and to be "jealous" 
over themselves "with godly jealousy," lest they should 
unwittingly be misled, in matters on which everlasting 
things depend. We have therefore need to pray, in the 
words of our sacred poet, 

■' Surround, sustain, and strengthen me, 
And fill with godly jealousy, 
And sanctifying fear." 

The persons spoken of are those that fear the Lord. 

IT. Their militant state is implied, by the words encamp- 
eth and delivereth. Those who need to be guarded on all 
sides by an encamping army, must be either in an enemy's 
country, or liable to be invaded by enemies ; those who are 
to be delivered must have been endangered. 

Christians are warriors ; soldiers of Christ : they desire 
and " seek peace with all men," but in connexion with 
" hdliness." They are constrained to be men of war, by 
the principles of duty and self-preservation. 

Their enemies are of various orders, they exist in 
formidable numbers and are impelled by remorseless and 
implacable malignity. The usual classification of them, 
as the flesh, the world and the devil, is natural and com- 

The flesh comprises our whole sad inheritance of spiritual 
depravity, in connexion with the appetites and infirmities 
of the body; infirmities which are often the means, occasions, 
and instruments of dangerous temptations. 

But worse than all my foes I find, 

The enemy within, 
The evil heart, the carnal mind, 

Mine own insidious sin. 

My nature every moment waits, 

To render me secure ; 
And all my paths, with ease besets,. 

To make my ruin sure. 


By the world as an enemy, we understand all the external 
and material sources of temptation. The things of the 
world ; its joys and griefs, gain and loss, pleasure and pain, 
wants and gratifications; the things which are seen and 
temporal : or, as John states and describes them, " the lust 
of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." 
The men of the world ; these are enemies in fact, though 
sometimes unconsciously ; even when they think they are 
befriending us. But worldly minds are naturally dangerous 
to the spiritually minded ; as persons who have the plague 
are dangerous to those who are in health. But there is 
often a willing and active enmity on the part of those who 
know not God, against those who truly fear Him. John 
says, "marvel not my brethren, if the world hate you," 
1 John iii. 13, and he makes this remark after mentioning 
the murderons enmity of Cain, who slew his brother, 
"because his own works were evil, and his brother's 
righteous." And a greater than John says, " If the world 
hate you, ye know that it hated me, before it hated you : 
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own, 
but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you 
out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." 

When the devil is classed with the flesh and the world, 
as among the Christian's enemies, the singular number is 
used in a plural sense. From the avowal of a demoniac 
in the gospel, it appears, that these evil beings exist in 
formidable numbers. " My name is Legion, for we are 
many." From other parts of the Scriptures, as for instance, 
those which describe the calamities inflicted on the cattle, 
the children, and the person of Job, it seems evident that 
these fallen spirits are mysteriously mighty, and would 
overwhelm the victims of their malignity, if not restrained 
by divine power. They are also unspeakably subtle ; they 
study the characters of men, wield their passions and follies, 
suggest thoughts and motives, and lead sinners captive by 


their vices, and habits of thought and feeling. They are 
remorselessly cruel; and will do all possible injury to those 
who fall into " the snare of the devil," and who " are taken 
captive by him at his will." If we had a human enemy 
who was able to live without sleep, it would seem rational 
to despair of guarding against such a foe : but these 
merciless adversaries never sleep. It was one of the 
superstitions of former days, to suppose that by certain 
magical arts, men might render themselves invisible, and 
it would appear hopeless to attempt any precaution against 
those who were believed to have such a marvellous power. 
But these evil angels are actually invisible, and inconceiv- 
ably active and vigilant. 

There have been instances in our time of the relief felt 
by nations, when some of the powerful oppressors and 
disturbers of the world have passed away ; when the 
common feeling of multitudes has echoed the inspired 
strain, " How hath the oppressor ceased ! The Lord hath 
broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the 
rulers." " The whole earth is at rest and is quiet." "How 
is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken!" 

But these invisible foes never die. They are immortal, 

" From thrones of glory driven, 

By flaming vengeance hurled, 
They throng the air, and darken heaven, 

And role the lower world. 
Angels your march oppose, 

Who still in strength excel, 
Your secret, sworn, eternal foes, 

Countless, invisible. 
With rage that never ends, 

Their hellish arts they try, 
Legions of dire, malicious fiends, 

And spirit's enthroned on high." 

The resulting dangers are accordingly, various, frequent, 
harassing, formidable : though not literally perpetual, they 
are almost so ; occurring in an irregular manner, and 


involving assaults like those of enemies in ambush. The 
perils are incalculable and unspeakable. 

If this were the whole case there would be no hope, 
no motive or encouragement to struggle : to despond would 
be rational. More than blood is spilt, if these adversaries 
prevail: more than life is endangered, if we give them any 
advantage : more than the ruin of an empire, more than 
the misery of a world through all time, is involved in the 
loss of a soul. But 

III. The divine safeguard provided is described in terms 
which imply — that it is •powerful, permanent, complete, and 
efficacious. It is — 

1. Powerful.. 

The Angel of the Lord, — either the Angel Jehovah, the 
Son of God Himself, the presence of Him that dwelt in 
the bush, and led the hosts of Israel by the pillar of cloud; 
or one of the ministering spirits who attend the heirs of 

One angel was able to destroy all the first-born of Egypt, 
and the seventy thousand who fell in the three days of 
pestilence, inflicted on account of the offence of David in 
numbering the people ; and the hundred and eighty-five 
thousand of Sennacherib's army. It has been pointed out 
that the evil angels are mysteriously mighty, and able with 
God's permission, to do great and terrible things : and it is 
seasonable here to remark, that ministering angels, having 
God's commission are mighty to save. He 

" Compasses with angel-bands, 
Bids them bear us in their hands. " 

2. The defence is permanent. The Angel encampeth, as a 
guard, not passing only, but abiding. 

When Jacob had parted from Laban, who " kissed his 
sons and daughters, and blessed them; and Laban departed, 
and returned unto his place. And Jacob went on his way, 


and the angels of jGod met him. And when Jacob saw 
them, he said, This is God's host : and he called the name 
of that place, Mahanaim : " which is rendered in the 
margin, " two hosts or camps." A passage in Zechariah, 
preceding that which predicts the public entrance of Jesus 
into Jerusalem, as "just and having salvation," says — 
" I will encamp about mine house, because of the army, 
because of him that passeth by, and because of him that 
returneth ; and no oppressor shall pass through them any 
more." This is supposed to have been said in reference to 
the Maccabees, who, as a garrison, kept watch and ward, in 
defence of the house and people of God, in the perilous 
times of Antiochus Epiphanes. From their days, God 
preserved His temple — " till after the death of Christ : 
when He forsook it entirely ; choosing the Christian church 
for His temple, and making it His peculiar care to watch 
over, encamp round about, and protect it/' To His 
Christian church, His parting assurance was — " And, lo, I 
am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." 

3. The defence is complete. This is pointed out by the 
words " round about ; " a defence on every side. The 
adversary and accuser of the brethren argued against 
Job, saying, " Hast not Thou made an hedge about him, 
and about his house, and about all that he hath on every 
side ? " 

The same impervious hedge, of Divine Providence, is 
round about every child of God. " Many sorrows shall be 
to the wicked : but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy 
shall compass him about." When the Israelites went out 
of Egypt, " the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of 
a cloud, to lead them the way ; and by night in a pillar of 
fire, to give them light ; to go by day and night. He took 
not away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire 
by night, from before the people." Thus complete was the 
divine safeguard ; before or behind, by day or by night, as 


their need required ; and the same supreme intelligence 
and power, is now devoted to the guidance and security of 
those who truly fear the Lord. When the king of Syria 
sent to seize Elisha in Dothan, the prophet's servant, having 
risen early, found the place surrounded with armed men; 
and said to Elisha, "Alas, my master, how shall we do ? Arid 
Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee open his eyes, 
that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the 
young man, and he saw ; and behold the mountain was 
full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha." 
And, when the Syrians, who by night had surrounded the 
place, came forward to take him, again Elisha prayed, and 
said, " I pray Thee, smite this people with blindness." And 
he led them unresisting into the midst of Samaria. They 
were thus, by divine influence, deprived of opportunity to 
molest Elisha, and were placed at the mercy of the king of 
Israel. And He who has the safety of His servants in His 
hand, still uses His power over the minds of men; so 
that, when they mean it not so, they are unwittingly made 
to do what the well-being, and the security of God's people 

4. The promised safeguard is efficacious : for the sentence 
ends with the words, " and delivereth them." The defence 
is effectual. " For the eyes of the Lord are over the 
righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers ; but 
the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. And who 
is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which 
is good ? " " Casting all your care upon Him ; for He 
careth for you." The Lord is nigh unto all them that call 
upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth. He will 
fulfil the desire of them that fear Him ; He also will hear 
their cry and will save them." " They that trust in the 
Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, 
but abideth for ever." Thus strong and full are the promises 
which assure true Christians of the love and care of their 


God : and not more strong than true. You humble, 
fearful servants of the Most High, " Trust in the Lord for 
ever ; for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength." 

And you who do not fear the Lord, about you also there 
is an encampment, — round about you; an entrenched, 
fortified encampment, of opinions, prejudices, passions, 
connexions, habits, associations ; that are worldly, vain, 
and unholy ; and among them and over them, are the 
powers of darkness, directing, controlling, and combining 
them; to detain you as their captives, against the delivering 
power of grace and truth. make haste to disannul 
" your covenant with death, and your agreement with hell," 
and surrender yourselves to Him " who hath delivered us 
from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the 
kingdom of His dear Son : in whom we have redemption 
through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins." 


" God be merciful unto us, and bless us ; and cause His face to shine upon 
us : That Thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all 
nations. Let the people praise Thee, O God ; let all the people praise Thee. 
let the nations be glad and sing for joy ; for Thou shalt judge the people 
righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Let the people praise Thee, 
God ; let all the people praise Thee. Then shall the earth yield her increase ; 
and God, even our own God, shall bless us. God shall bless us ; and all the 
ends of the earth shall fear Him."— Psalm lxvii. 

The venerable reformers of religion in England, about 
three hundred years ago, appointed this psalm, to be read 
every Lord's Day, as a part of the evening service. This 
implies on their part, a high estimation of the importance 
and peculiar excellence of this psalm, and its appropriate- 
ness as the continual prayer of the people of God. They 
"who thus appointed the reading of these words every 
Sabbath, whether the Reformers or their predecessors in 
earlier times, would appear to have been persuaded, that 
the spiritual vitality and prosperity of the church of the 
Redeemer are ordained to be the chief means in every age, 
of promoting the enlightenment, conversion, and happi- 
ness of the world : and they seem to have thought that — 
as one step towards the attainment of such blessings — 
prayer ought to be made without ceasing, for the mercies 
of God to His people, which alone can render them the 
suitable and effectual instruments of such comprehensive 
benefits to mankind. 

The parts of this psalm are connected and arranged in a 
manner which is characteristically poetical; not in that 
form and order, which would be observed in a deliberate 
investigation of the same subjects in prose; but rather 
presenting the ideas and sentiments in such a spontaneous 
series, as would naturally arise, if the exalted imagination 


and feelings of a religious mind were leading the illumi- 
nated understanding from means to ends ; from the 
present, by the light of the past, to the mysterious future ; 
from scene to scene of progressive social transformations 
and peaceful triumphs, terminating in universal godliness 
and blessedness, under the sceptre of Christ. 

This order of poetical suggestion — of thought stimulated, 
expanded, and elevated by pure and lofty emotions — is in 
reality more natural than the logical order. But it is 
difficult to reduce to an arrangement convenient for 
methodical consideration, the contents of seven verses 
poured forth from the mind and heart of an inspired poet 
and prophet, with all the daring boldness of transition 
and repetition, which could be prompted by grandeur of 
thought, animated and intensified by the holiest and most 
rapturous feelings. 

Though a plan can scarcely be devised which will 
adequately develop the entire subject, it may be useful to 
examine what the psalm presents for consideration, in the 
following order : — 

Its obvious and closely connected parts are — 

I. An inspired prayer of God's people, for the blessings 
most essential to their own true welfare ; 

II. An appropriate statement of reasons for such prayer ; 
alleging, in substance, that the blessings sought are needful 
to the church in order to its highest usefulness. 

III. The prayer and the reasons for it, afford the divine 
light and encouragement of a glorious and unerring 

The first part is an inspired prayer of God's people for 
the blessings most essential to their own true welfare. 

1. The text speaks in the name, and as the voice of the 
collective people of God. God be merciful unto us, and 
bless us: — us, God's people, whether the Israel of the times 
of Moses and the prophets, or the spiritual Israel, the church 


of the Messiah among all nations ; — us, His saints, who 
have made a covenant with Him by sacrifice, presenting 
before Him the blood of atonement, as the indispensable 
means of a sinner's approach to the God of holiness, as the 
mutual pledge and seal of merciful kindness on the part 
of God, and of loving faith and obedience on the part 
of the humbled and pardoned people of God, who feel 
that they are not their own, being bought with a precious 

2. The church, whether Jewish or Christian, asks, as 
the blessings indispensable to its own safety and happi- 
ness, for divine mercy, divine favour, and the manifested 
or sensible approbation of God. 

" God be merciful unto us," is a petition which implies 
confession of guilt and unworthiness, and humiliation on 
account of sin. The church of Him who gave Himself for 
us, and who justifies the ungodly, being penitent, through 
faith in His propitiation, has a far more impressive and 
affecting sense of its need of mercy, of the exceeding 
sinfulness of sin, and of the awful holiness of Him, who is 
"of purer eyes, than to behold iniquity" than its own 
members had, whether awakened or unawakened, while 
they were yet in their sins and in danger of the wrath to 
come. The work of saving grace is preceded by a deep 
sense of guilt and helplessness, and of the sinners unspeak- 
able need of divine mercy ; and those who have personally 
obtained mercy, often feel like holy Daniel, who was appa- 
rently the best man of his time, when he "set his face 
unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, 
with fasting and sackcloth, and ashes;" and when, with 
no exception in favour of his own comparative righteous- 
ness, but unreservedly including himself with his fellow- 
captives in his confession and humiliation, he said, " O 
Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to 
our princes, and to our fathers, bcc.iuse we have sinned 


against thee. To 'the Lord our God belong mercies and 
forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against Him." 

The next petition of the church in this inspired prayer 
is for divine favour : " God be merciful unto us, and bless 
us;" which is in agreement with the actual course of God's 
gracious dealings with all " who truly repent and unfeign- 
edly believe the gospel." Whomsoever He forgives, He 
blesses ; being justified, accounted righteous, they have 
peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. When He pardons a 
sinner, He does not merely remove the intolerable sense of 
His displeasure, and the fear of judgment, but He "puts" 
a "gladness into his heart" such as a prosperous worldling 
has not, in the time when his wine and his oil increase. 
And those who have thus " tasted that the Lord is 
gracious," value His blessing as their chief joy, and regard 
all the other enjoyments and advantages as utterly insuf- 
ficient to compensate for its absence. 

This prayer of the people of God goes on to ask, " and 
cause His face to shine upon us." Here there is probably 
an allusion to the visible glory of the Lord, which appeared 
on the tabernacle in the wilderness, and which filled the 
temple at its consecration, " so that the priests could not 
stand to minister." In other passages, the gracious pre- 
sence of God is expressed by the light of His countenance. 
The witness of His spirit with their spirit is the shining of 
His face on the souls of His pardoned and adopted 
children ; and the power of His Spirit accompanying the 
word and the solemnities of divine worship, with the 
blessing of His providence and grace on the institutions of 
His churches, and on the enterprises and exertions of their 
zeal and benevolence, are tokens to themselves and others, 
that He is with them, and that He accepts their work of 
faith and labour of love. The effect of such gracious 
manifestations on the hearts of His people is sanctifying^ 
as well as animating ; " with open face beholding," and 


mirroring or reflecting, "as in a glass the glory of the 
Lord," they " are changed into the same image, from 
glory," in the effulgent Saviour, to reflected glory, in those 
who thus " see Him as He is," even by the Lord the Spirit, 
whose good pleasure it is thus gloriously to work in His 
people, " to will and to do." 

3. These gracious gifts — the mercy and favour of God, 
and the tokens of His approving love, are the blessings 
most essential and indispensable to the churche's own 
welfare. False and apostate churches are mainly anxious 
for a different kind of advantages. Wealth, political 
power, rank, splendour, great w T orldly influence, even the 
pomps and vanities of the world, are eagerly desired by 
individuals and communities who have fallen from grace, 
and have forsaken the fountain of living waters ; and those 
churches, so called, which have most widely departed from 
the truth as it is in Jesus, are most ambitious of temporal 
advantages and honours. But a true church knows no 
substitute for divine forgiveness and divine favour, and for 
those tokens of divine approbation, by which God causes 
His face to shine upon His people. Possessing these, the 
disciples of Jesus are neither feeble nor afraid ; but strong 
in the Lord, and in the power of His might. 

4. The prayer for these permanent blessings is inspired, 
expressing not only the church's wishes, but the " mind of 
the LoTd" as to its real, and exact, and most important 
wants. Here " the Spirit " in the inspired word, " maketh 
intercession for the saints according to the will of God." 

II. The psalm sets forth an appropriate pleading of 
reasons for the church's prayer, alleging in substance that 
the blessings sought are needful to the church in order to 
its highest usefulness, in promoting the salvation of the 
world through the saving knowledge of God. 

1. The granting of this prayer is urged as a means to an 
end, — not only as a favour to the petitioners, but as an 


important stage in advance towards a greater purpose, a 
more glorious consummation — the world-wide spread of 
saving truth. 

" That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving 
health among all nations." 

By "the way," we understand the way in which God 
requires men to walk, the way of His precepts, the way of 
His truth, or the true religion; and in particular God's 
revealed method of reconciling rebellious sinners to him- 
self; justifying the ungodly, sanctifying the unholy, and 
preparing them for the glorious recompense of heaven. 

By " thy saving health " we understand God's medicine 
or remedy for the evils of our sick and dying humanity, 
for the otherwise helpless and dangerous state of a diseased, 
corrupted, miserable, perishing world ; or in one word, his 
salvation, expressed in the preceding clause as his way; 
both expressions taken together, " signify the way of 

% The blessings sought for the church are avowedly 
desired in order that God's way of salvation may be 
known, — proclaimed, understood, and followed — "upon 
earth," and " among all nations/' It is thus implied that this 
is the appointed and indispensable instrumentality for diffus- 
ing the saving knowledge of God. Thus is the world to 
be delivered out of darkness, and translated into the kins:- 
dom of God's dear Son. The people of God, saved them- 
selves, experiencing and exemplifying the religion of 
saving power, are to be the means of enlightening and 
saving others ; and those who believe through their word 
and example, are to repeat the process ; the purifying and 
saving influence is to be extended in human society, like 
the leaven in the measures of meal, till all know the Lord, 
and are witnesses that the gospel is the power of God 
unto salvation. The body of pardoned, blessed, approved 
believers, are thus the chosen instruments of divine opera- 


tion; and the spiritual health and vigour of the church 
are required for the carrying out of God's plan for convert- 
ing and saving the world. Believers are still, from the 
days of the patriarchs to the time of Christ, and to the 
latest generations, the salt of the earth, to preserve society 
from the most dangerous moral corruption ; and the lights 
of the world to shine amidst the darkness of ignorance, 
error, and ungodliness, and by their good works to attract 
the notice, and disarm the prejudices, of mankind. 

2. The end first proposed is then viewed as becoming, 
in its turn, a means to a further end. The knowledge of 
excellence is the rational ground of praise. In recognizing 
and applying this principle to the spread of the knowledge 
of Christ, and the happy and glorious results of this, the 
eager thoughts of the psalmist pass over some of the 
intermediate links of practical connexion — the effects of 
the gospel, in those who receive it; and through their 
influence, in confounding idolatry and all false religion ; 
calling sinners to repentance, and diffusing a purifying and 
peaceful spirit everywhere : his anticipations go forward to 
the triumphant consequences on a large scale — the rich 
harvest of praise from a renovated world. " Let the people 
praise Thee, God ; let all the people praise Thee." Let 
these things be done, let these blessings be graciously 
bestowed on Thy servants, that through their willing 
instrumentality the people of all nations may know and 
praise Thee. Knowledge, as the ground of admiration, 
must precede praise, which is admiration expressed ; and 
admiration of the character and ways of God must even- 
tually be the effect of His people's borrowed light shining 
before men. 

3. The stage of progress thus anticipated is then viewed 
as preparatory to a further happiness. A people who 
know God's way and walk in it ; who receive His great 
remedy, His saving health ; and live in the spirit of love 



and praise ; will # submit to God's government. A saved 
people begin with grateful praise, and proceed with hearty, 
willing obedience. '« And He will judge the people right- 
eously, and govern the nations upon earth" with order, 
peace, love, and wisdom ; all laws and authorities in 
churches, states, and families, being regulated by the prin- 
ciples of His word, by His royal law of love to God and 
man; and the opinions and. dispositions of men being 
pervaded and guided by the healthful spirit of His grace. 

4. The universal concord and happiness of such a state 
of the world, under the sceptre of Christ, is contemplated 
by the psalmist as a cause of solemn gladness to all nations ; 
as a reason for encouraging them to sing for joy; as calling 
for additional ardour and richer harmony of universal 
praise in the voices of great multitudes. " Let the people 
praise Thee, God, let all the people praise Thee." 

5. The union of converted and happy nations, in praising 
and serving God with their whole heart and with one 
consent, is then surveyed as a state of the world which He 
waits for, who " will wait, that He may be gracious." And 
it is exhibited, not indeed as a cause, but as a condition, of 
the removal of the curse, a restoration of the earth to 
general fertility, and of mankind to common abundance 
and temporal happiness, crowned with the blessing of the 
triune God on the happy and grateful inhabitants of a 
purified and renovated world. "Then shall the earth yield 
her increase, and God, even our own God, shall bless us. 
God shall bless us, and all the ends of the world shall fear 
Him." Some understand and interpret a part of these 
words as signifying God the Eternal Father shall bless 
us ; God the Son, the Eternal Word, our own God, our 
Immanuel, shall bless us ; God the Holy Spirit, who 
dwells in His people, shall bless us. Whether this be the 
meaning here intended or not, the fact will be so. The 
Father will forgive and bless those who come to Him 


through His Son. The Son will give rest to their souls. 
The Holy Spirit will shed abroad in their hearts the love 
of God, and will dwell in them, and walk in them. Then 
will the earth yield the increase of the fruits of righteous- 
ness; all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of 
God, and will serve Him acceptably, with reverence and 
godly" fear. 

III. The prayer and the reasons assigned for it, viewed 
together, afford the divine light and encouragement of a 
glorious and unerring example. 

1. An example — the manner in which the ancient church 
thus called upon God is placed upon record, that their 
successors in all ages may walk by the same rule and mind 
the same things. This example sets before us the people 
of God feeling and praying as He would have them to do, 
and expressing their wants and desires in words which the 
Holy Ghost teacheth. 

'2. It is a glorious example which is thus set before us — 
the ancient church in Israel, rising in devout thoughts and 
holy desires to the elevation of its high calling, and joy- 
fully anticipating the better times of the gospel ; exulting 
in all that has been foreseen and accomplished down to 
our day, and rejoicing in the prospect of still greater 
triumphs when " the earth shall be full of the knowledge 
of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." 

3. It is an unerring and a perfect example, because it 
was the work of the Holy Spirit on the heart and mind of 
the prophetic psalmist, inspiring thoughts, and wishes, and 
high hopes, worthy of the people of God when the Lord 
was great in Zion, and granting them glimpses of a more 
glorious dispensation to the churches of later times. 

4. The psalm is a precious instance of the light which 
makes manifest. The telescope of prophetic sagacity here 
brings the far distant future near to the mind's eye of the. 
thoughtful mid devout reader. Days far better than uui 


own, times of advanced Christian enterprise and success, 
are set before us as in vision ; and the plans and operations 
of the victorious agency, by which the world is to be con- 
quered for Christ, the blessed and blameless means and the 
triumphant and beneficent consummation, are discovered to 
the eye of faith, which receives the testimony of God as 
the evidence of things not seen. 

5. The whole affords the most genial encouragement to 
those who pity the world, and who are jealous for the 
glory of Christ. The showers and sunshine of spring do 
not afford more gratifying promise of the glories of sum- 
mer and the harvests and fruits of autumn. This psalm 
presents to the churches of every age and country animat- 
ing motives, and ascertained results, such as may well 
sustain the fortitude of faithful men in the darkest times ; 
making it appear foolish to be weary in well-doing, and 
assuring those who pray and labour in patient hope, for 
the salvation of sinners and the reign of righteousness, 
that their labour will not be in vain in the Lord. 

6. The use to be made of this divine light and encour- 
agement thus set before us, should be to humble ourselves 
and pray earnestly, that God may be merciful unto us and 
bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us. We need 
these blessings for ourselves. And I trust we shall be 
willing to learn that it is our duty and glorious privilege, 
as the adopted children of God, to abound in all those 
works of the Lord, by which we may promote the salvation 
of all nations, and accelerate the period when God shall 
bless all nations with His truth and grace, and when all 
the ends of the earth shall fear Him. 


"Deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword ; from men which 
are thy hand, Lord ; from men of the world, which have their portion in 
this life."— Psalm xvii. 13, 14. 

The people of God have often been reproached for alleged 
illiberality, because they regard and speak of a large part 
of mankind as men of the world. The text sufficiently 
evinces that the phrase is scriptural, and that the numerous 
class of men it points out are not an imaginary race. 

It was to me highly interesting, when this passage first 
fixed my attention, to perceive that this characteristic 
expression — men of the world — which some seem to regard 
as nothing better than sectarian phraseology, is a part " of 
the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth." Those spiritual 
views of religion and worldliness which are now held by 
all true Christians, were the views of holy and inspired 
men thousands of years ago ; — in the days of Seth, Enoch 
and Noah ; — in the times of Abraham and his family, of 
David and of Christ. Genesis iv. 26. "And to Seth, to 
him also was born a son : and he called his name Enos : 
then began men to call upon the name of the Lord." 
Chapter xx. 11. "And Abraham said, Because I thought, 
Surely the fear of God is not in this place." Chapter xxiv. 
3. "And I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of 
heaven, and the God of the earth." Chapter xxvi. 34, 
35. "And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife 
Judith the daughter of Beeri, the Hittite, and of Bashemath 
the daughter of Elon the Hittite : Which were a grief of 
mind unto Isaac and Bebekah." 

John xv. 18, 19. " If the world hate you, ye know that 
it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, 


the world would tove his own : but because ye are not of 
the world, therefore the world hateth you." Also John 
xvii. 14. In all these periods the comprehensive and 
accurate classification of mankind which the Holy Spirit 
taught and sanctioned, was not according to mere outward 
appearances, as the virtuous and the vicious ; the moral 
and the immoral; or the honourable and the base; but 
according to more real and important distinctions — as sons 
of God and children of men ; or as godly strangers and 
pilgrims and men of the world. 

Respecting the sort of men here spoken of, the text leads 
us to consider 

Their character — and 

Their portion — 

I. Their character. 

-They are spoken of as wicked. 

These phrases do not describe two different sorts of men ; 
but give two views or descriptions of the same persons. 

The wicked are all men of the world, and all men of the 
world are essentially wicked. Wicked — -popularly, such, as 
are both irreligious and immoral ; — strictly and scriptur- 
ally, — such as are neither penitents nor believers, — such 
as neither trust, love, fear, nor serve God. They are men 
of the world relatively to the present and future ; to the 
visible and the invisible ; to things material and spiritual, 
or natural and carnal. Men of the world. 

1. The elements or essential properties of this class of 
character. They mind earthly things — with a paramount 
and idolatrous regard. " To judge the fatherless and the' 
oppressed, that the man of the earth may no more oppress." 
" Who mind earthly things." 

They neglect spiritual and heavenly things — are not 
living for eternity — though some try to "serve God and 


Their views, habits, and manners, are formed by and 
after the world — by the things and the men of it — by the 
often reiterated impressions of worldly hopes, fears, and 
illusions — 'by the influence and example of the multitude 
whom they follow in doing evil — worldly training. 

2. These essential elements are so differently combined 
with the special views, pursuits, and peculiarities of 
individuals, as to form many striking, and often contrasted 

Some worldlings are avowed infidels, others party zealots. 
Some are despisers or neglecters of ordinances; others 
equally worldly, are punctilious and superstitious observers 
of ordinances. Some are immoral ; others mere moralists. 
Some are elaborate formalists, hypocrites, or plausible 
professors, or ostentatious, sanctimonious bigots, who are 
in the church on worldly principles, for selfish objects : 
others openly profane. 

Many are otherwise distinguished and varied from each 
other by such circumstances as — learning or ignorance — 
barbarous rudeness or fastidious refinement — wealth or 
poverty — sobriety or excess — frugality or profusion. The 
spendthrift and the miser are equally worldly Some are 
fallen believers, backsliders in heart, thorny ground hearers. 

There is in all the varieties of the worldly character, 
however diversified or contrasted, the essential wickedness 
of spiritual idolatry, impenitence, unbelief, and rebellious 
enmity against the character and claims of the God of 
holiness, the blessed and only potentate. 

Relatively — to God and His people. 

To both men of the world are enemies — in spirit and 
effect more than themselves are conscious of. 

To good men they are often as snares and nets, as adders 
in the path, or lions in the way — as infectious sources of 
moral pestilence. 


To God, notwithstanding their rebellious enmity, they 
are instruments, as a sword, or a hand, or a labourer. 

1 Kings xi. 14. "The Lord stirred up an adversary unto 
Solomon, Hadad the Edomite." 23rd verse. " And God 
stirred him up another adversary, Eezon the son of Eliadah." 
25 verse. "And he was an adversary to Israel all the 
days of Solomon, beside the mischief that Hadad did." 

2 Samuel. " I will chastise him with the rod of men, and 
with stripes of the children of men." Isaiah liv. 16. 
" I have created the waster to destroy." xxxvii. 26. "Now 
have I brought it to pass that thou shouldst be to lay 
waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps, therefore the 
inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and 
confounded," etc. Isaiah x. 15. "0 Assyrian, the rod of 
mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indigna- 
tion." Jeremiah li. 20. " Thou art my battle-axe and 
weapons of war/' 

Between God and His people they are the subjects of 
powerful prayer. David here prays to be delivered from 
them. When, after numbering the people, the choice of 
three evils was offered him by God through the seer, David 
said " I am in a great strait : let me now fall into the hand 
of the Lord ; for very great are His mercies : but let me 
not fall into the hand of man." He had much and 
varied painful experience of the formidable and pernicious 
influence of worldly men. Saul, Doeg, Abner, Joab, 
Abishai, Ahithophel, Shimei, and others, were powerful or 
able men of the world. 

Christian believers have need to be delivered 

From the power of men of the world — as rulers, oppres- 
sors, persecutors. 

From their influence — as acquaintances, relatives, friends. 
Adulterous friendship of the world is emnity with God. 

From their influence as wise or crafty in their genera- 


tion — as Ahithophel, against whose subtle sagacity David 
specially prayed. 

From their poisonous spiritual influence above all — as 
worldly professors, wolves in sheep's clothing — "Diotrephes, 
who loveth to have the pre-eminence/' — Injury, from this 
influence, to God's cause and people, is incalculable. Tares 
and wheat — well might Wesley say 

" Men of worldly, low design, 
Let not.tbese Thy people join, 
Poison our simplicity, 
Drag us from our trust in Thee." 

God can deliver from His own instruments, which are 
under command — He sets bounds to their power and 
rage — often breaks His rod, when the chastisement has 
been dealt. 

What a terrible thing to the man of the world himself, 
to be first a scourge, a rod ; then fuel for the fire of wrath 
unquenchable ! 

Awful is the case of him against whom God's people 
are constrained to plead in true prayer ! It were better for 
him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he 
cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these 
little ones. 

II. Their portion. 

"Which have their portion in this life" — i. e. } their 
portion of good — almost a part of their character — its 
chief consequence. 

They choose and have their good in this life. (Kefer to 
Bunyan's Passion and Patience.) 

As men of the world they can have no other share of 
GOOD than this world affords, — and it is their own choice. 
This was the essential wickedness of the rich man in the 
gospel, it was his choice and his great pleasure to be 
" clothed in purple and fine linen," and to fare " sumptu- 


ously every day ; <" and when " in hell he lifted up his eyes 
being in torment." and intreated the pity of his blessed 
and glorious forefather Abraham, the reply was, "Son, 
remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good 
things" — his whole portion of good. How poor when 
present and enjoyed ! how empty and desolate when spent 
and gone! All that God can justly bestow on worldly 
men, must be given in this life — they prevent him from 
making them happy hereafter ; they put from them eternal 
life, and neglect the great salvation. 

A poor portion it is which the best and happiest of 
them obtain ! — food, drink, clothes, lodging, fire, and a few 
other conveniences — with laborious luxury, ostentation, 
foolish friends, position, fame, etc. — all ! 

A labourer whose honest toil earns wholesome neces- 
saries ; who has kind intercourse with his family, and a 
good character and conscience, enjoys more in this life, 
than the worldlings who, from the proud pinnacles of 
society, oppress or dazzle the multitude. 

But most men of the world are poor, obscure, and 
miserable even in this life. The common lot is what we 
should chiefly consider, not the rare exceptions. A poor 
man of the world, is poor indeed ! 

The emphatic phrase, in this life, points by significant 
implication to the fact that there is another life. Men of 
the world have no portion of good there. But that life 
cannot be avoided — it comes as irresistibly as the morning 
comes to betray the unfinished enterprise of the thief. It 
comes — bringing to some unmingled good — to others 
unmixed, unmitigated misery. 

Those who will have their good things novj, will then 
have their evil things, and only evil. Miserable calcula- 
tors — cheated by success — ruined by their own earnest 
choice and pursuits ! 


We are, or are not — men of the world. 

Examine — 

If you are not God's people, — repent — renounce the love 
of the world, or perish with your poor portion — look at and 
estimate your lot here and hereafter. 

If you are children of God — watch against men of the 
world — pray to be delivered — say " Lord, I am Thine, save 



"Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. "—Matthew vi. 10. 

It is an inestimable mercy that God has not only per- 
mitted us to pray, but has also graciously condescended to 
inform us what favours we may ask with a probability of 
obtaining them. He has thus rendered the privilege both 
definite and extensive. Had He only given a general 
permission to present petitions, without dictating or 
suggesting any, we might have doubted whether the 
privilege would not be nullified by the impossibility, in 
that case, of previously ascertaining what requests would 
be agreeable to His holy will. We might reasonably have 
feared lest many things, which our natural desires and 
wants would prompt us to ask for, should prove contrary 
to His will, ever unsearchable while unrevealed. But as 
He has placed before us a set of petitions, which He 
authorizes and commands us to present when we pray, we 
may, with lowly confidence, expect a favourable hearing of 
such requests as are included in the limits of those war- 
ranted or suggested petitions. And when the petitions 
thus authorised are duly considered and examined, they 
are found to be so comprehensive as to include all that can 
be reasonably claimed from divine mercy, bounty, or 

The Lord's prayer is not only a form, but a model of 
prayer; a directory concerning the subjects on which we 
may address the Almighty ; an example of the manner in 
which we should order our hearts and our words before 

It is as needless, as it would be improper, to exalt one 


part of this divine prayer at the expense of the rest : every 
part is highly instructive and important ; and the portion 
selected for our text is exceedingly full and weighty. 
(Jebb's reading — " Thy name be hallowed, etc., Thy will 
be done as in heaven so in earth.") 

The points of view in which we propose to consider it 
may be conveniently expressed by the statement that it 
conveys instruction concerning the duty of prayer in 
particular; concerning the comprehensive principle of all 
duty — our obligation to do the will of God ; and concern- 
ing the divine purposes as to the future triumphs of 
Messiah in the world. Or 

I. The text is an important direction concerning prayer ; 

II. It is, in substance, a comprehensive rule of Christian 
practice ; 

III. It is an indirect prophecy or revelation, conveying 
religious information involving inspired views of the 

I. It is an important direction concerning prayer. 

1. Viewed as associated with other 'petitions, it expresses 
and enjoins resignation, as necessary to qualify and limit 
our wishes themselves, and the expression of them in 
supplication. The will of God is, for our welfare, infinitely 
better than ours. 

" Good when He gives, supremely good, 
Nor less when He denies.'' 

" Should it be according to thy mind ?" 

This implied direction has the additional sanction of our 
Lord's example. "And He went a little farther, and fell 
on His face, and prayed, saying, my Father, if it be 
possible, let this cup pass from Me ; nevertheless not as I 
will, but as Thou wilt/' He went away again the second 
time, and prayed saying, " my Father, if this cup may 
not pass away from Me, except I drink it, thy will be 


2. Viewed as a, request on our own behalf, for favour to 
ourselves, it teaches us to desire and ask for righteousness ; 
for entire conformity to the will of G-od, for power to 
submit unreservedly to the dispensations of God's provi- 
dence, and to "do always those things that please Him!' 

In this consisted the moral perfection of Him whom the 
prophetic psalmist personates by saying, " Lo ! I come to do 
Thy will, God," and who, as the Son of Man, did always 
those things that pleased Him. And the most simple idea 
we can have of the perfection of any creature is, that it is, 
and does what its Maker intended it to be and to do. 

He has elsewhere taught that this righteousnesss, in 
connection with the spiritual kingdom of God, is to be 
sought before all other good. 

3. Viewed in reference to its subject as a prayer con- 
cerning the will of God, for its universal prevalence, it is 
an expression of zeal. It teaches us to pray in a spirit of 
all-comprising zeal for God, and for His rights, honour, and 
authority. For the petition virtually asks Him to put 
forth the power of His glorious perfections in causing His 
will to be completely obeyed throughout the world, in 
putting down all rale, authority, and power that exalt 
themselves against His holy kingdom. He that prays 
thus makes a profession to the Almighty of zeal for His 
kingdom and glory. 

4. Viewed as a prayer of intercession for all the earth 
(that is, all mankind ; for " thy will be done in earth " is 
not understood by anyone to signify the inanimate, uncon- 
scious globe, the earth we tread upon ; but must mean the 
intelligent and immortal creatures that dwell upon it : the 
earth literally is what G-od wills it to be; but its inhabi- 
tants rebel against the Lord of heaven and earth) viewed 
thus, as a prayer concerning the inhabitants of the earth 
the text teaches us to pray in a spirit of goodwill towards 
men ; that they may everywhere have the best blessino- we 


can ask for them, which is the wisdom, grace, and happi- 
ness to do constantly the whole will of God. 

Other expressions in this prayer imply that we are to 
remember our fellow-creatures when we draw near to God. 
"Our Father" — "give us" — forgive us our trespasses." 

II. The text is, in substance though not in form, a 
comprehensive rule of Christian practice ; or an instruction 
concerning the principle of all duty — that we are bound 
to obey the will of God. 

1. The obvious intention of our Lord in teaching us to 
pray, is not chiefly to furnish proper expressions for our 
wishes, but rather to instruct us what our wishes ought 
to be, — what things it is right to desire and to request; 
but whatever it is right to desire and ask, it must also be 
right to do as we have power and opportunity. This 
direction how to pray implies that God's will ought to be 
done ; — that it is our duty to hear, to perform, and to promote 
the whole will of God: that we ought to desire it, to pray 
for it, to strive and labour for it. If we ought to ask it, it 
surely follows- that we ought to desire it, otherwise how 
could our petitions be sincere ? If we are bound to desire 
any attainment or event, w T e are equally obliged to strive 
for it. It would be absurd and self-contradictory to say 
the contrary. Who could have the assurance to say con- 
cerning any supposed good that it was our duty to pray for 
it, but not to desire it ? Or that it was our duty to desire 
it, but not to concur by our own patience or exertion to the 
attainment of our desire ? And it would be no less absurd, 
if not impossible, to suppose a person sincere in prayer 
without correspondent desires; or to suppose him sincere in 
desiring what he prays for, but at the same time unwilling 
to do, or attempt w T hat he desires and asks God to cause to 
be done. 

2. By putting these words of supplication into our 
mouth, our Lord places us under a peculiar obligation, as 


petitioners, to strive after the same things that we pray for, 
to use means suitable to the end which our petitions call 
for, in short to work as well as pray. We ought to do His 
will whether we pray thus or not ; — but by thus praying 
we are additionally thus bound in consistency. 

3. To allow a separation or an opposition between our 
prayers and our conduct, is practically a gross and shame- 
ful inconsistency : but such inconsistency, alas ! there is 
in the practice of many. 

How many ask daily that God's will may be done, who, 
when his will is before them in the shape of some dis- 
appointment or affliction, have no patience; but abandon 
themselves to occasional rage and habitual murmuring, and 
behave as if they thought the God of Providence dealt 
unwisely or unjustly ! 

How many ask daily that God's will may be done, who, 
when his will is before them in the form of some laborious 
or painful duty to be performed, or some cross to be taken 
aip for Christ, refuse even to attempt an active obedience 
to that perfect will which they have so prayed for ! 

How many, by the habitual use of this prayer, ask God 
to accomplish that great spiritual reformation of the world, 
which is to render earth a holy and happy heaven below, 
who themselves take no pains, and contribute no cost to 
mend the world, or to reform or convert one human being ! 
Such petitioners treat the Almighty as St. James's chari- 
table man is represented to treat his poor brethren " be 

ye warmed and filled ; notwithstanding ye give them not 
those things which are needful to the body ; what doth it 
profit?" In like manner, "what doth it profit" to say to 
the God of holiness, "Thy will be done," if we neither 
endeavour to do it ourselves, nor make any exertion or 
sacrifice to do it in others ? To act thus is at once hypo- 
critical and profane ; hypocritical in professing what is not 
sincerely felt; presumptuously profane in making such false 


profession to the All-wise God, who searches the heart of 
His worshippers, and who says, " I know the thoughts that 
come into your mind, every one of them." 

4. If we ask God to cause that to be done, which we 
are not willing to bear, to do, or to promote by any sacri- 
fice or exertion, then we say to Him mere words of compli- 
ment, words which we do not mean. But if our prayers 
degenerate into compliments, we may expect to be answered 
accordingly. Such prayers are but wind, and if we sow the 
tcind of unmeant petitions, we are likely to "reap the 
whirlwind of indignation and wrath, tribulation and 
anguish." Can any man mock God and go unpunished ? 
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked, for whatsoever a 
man soweth, that shall he also reap." 

5. But if any of us are conscious of such inconsistency, 
what is to be done ? Shall we therefore leave off praying 
as taught by Jesus Christ ; or shall we alter our prayers ? 
God forbid ! It will avail nothing to bring our prayer* 
down to our practice : we must, by grace, bring our practice 
up to our prayers. Some have been known to give up 
saying the Lord's prayer, because they would not forgive , 
thus blindly renouncing the terms of mercy, and abandon- 
ing themselves to unmitigated wrath. In like manner, to 
give up praying " Thy will be done," would be deliberate 
rebellion against God. 

III. This prayer is an indirect prophecy conveying 
religious information respecting the future from the highest 
source. An instruction concerning the divine purposes as 
to the future prevalence of the will of God on earth. 

1. From the highest source. 

From Him, who in the beginning, as the Word was with 
God, and wees God, who knew what was in man, etc. 

It would be extravagant and presumptuous, to suppose 
that, in teaching us to pray, our Lord expressed His mean- 
ing too strongly, that He used ill-considered and inacciv 



rate phrases; or- that He either carelessly, inadvertently, 
or designedly raised false expectations by the petitions He 
directed us to address to the Father. 

2. By implication this prayer informs us 

That the complete accomplishment of God's will ought 
to be desired, as a blessing to the earth, primarily and 
chiefly necessary to make it like heaven. He who teaches 
to pray undertakes to shew what is good or desirable. 

This is the most needful and desirable blessing for the 
world. A repeal of the curse of labour, or of the penalty 
of death, would be nothing in comparison. 

That a complete conformity to the will of God is a 
blessing to be hoped for, since we are encouraged to ask for 
it. Jesus knew the mind of God : therefore he knew 
either that God was willing to give the grace thus asked 
for, or that he was not. Who will dare to say that while 
Jesus taught His disciples to pray "Thy will be done," He 
was aware of the impossibility of this ; that He bids them 
ask what He knew to be unattainable? Who will say 
that He would thus tantalise infirmity and dependence 
with useless directions and vain hopes, as a foolish nurse 
might urge a child to cry for the moon ? 

That conformity to the will of God is to be desired 
and hoped for to this extent On this ground we may hope 
to be delivered from all sin. Sin is a transgression of the 
law, and the law is a manifestation of the will of God. 
Therefore if His will be done, sin must cease. And surely 
Christ would not tantalise us, by bidding us pray for what 
God had predetermined not to grant. 

This appears further, as Dr. Clarke observes, from the 
phrase, " as it is in heaven," as angels do it, with all zeal 
diligence, love, delight, and perseverance. 

The words " on earth " imply that this deliverance 
from sin, and this conformity to the divine will may be 
hoped for in this life. 


There is no need to pray for the accomplishment of the 
will of God in the world to come. Certainties are not the 
subjects of prayer, but such things as may or may not be. 
, n o pray that the will of God may be done in the new earth, 
vould be as needless as to pray that the sun may rise to- 
morrow. As to ourselves we know not of any residence 
we shall have on earth beyond this life. For us to do the 
will of God on earth, it must be in this life or never. We 
pray to obey like angels on earth. 

I know not what reasonable sense can be attached to 
these words, if a salvation from sin in this life be denied. 

Surely the expectation, through grace, of serving God 
without sin, cannot justly be censured as enthusiastic and 
visionary with any consistency, except by such as would 
call the Saviour a visionary. Mark St. Paul's prayer for 
the Thessalonians, "Now the very God of peace sanctify 
you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul 
and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our 
Lord Jesus Christ/' 

It is obvious that those who pray to do God's will 
should seek to know it by searching the Scriptures, medi- 
tation, prayer, and sincere obedience to light possessed. 
Those who pray that God's will should be done on 
earth, should be willing to give of their substance to 
spread Christian knowledge and to support Christian 

The great outlines of God's will are easily known in a 
Christian country; — that sinners repent, that penitents 
believe, that believers persevere, walking by the faith that 
works by love ; watching and praying that they enter not 
into temptation; pursuing whatsoever things are honest, 
just, pure, lovely, laudable, virtuous. Do as you pray; 
"thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven " 


" And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him, saying, If 
Thou be Christ, save Thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, 
saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation ? 
And we indeed justly ; for we receive the due reward of our deeds ; but this 
man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me 
when Thou comest into Thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say 
unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with Me in paradise." — Luke xxiii. 39-43. 

These words record a conversation which has no parallel ; 
between speakers characteristically remarkable, and in 
most extraordinary circumstances. 

This singular dialogue may be considered as one subject 
in three parts. The one subject is the conversation of the 
sufferers on the three crosses. The three parts are — that of 
the hardened sinner, of the penitent, of Jesus. 

We proceed to consider — 

First, that part of this ever memorable and eventful 
conversation which was uttered by the haedened sinner. 

Two malefactors, or evil-doers, were crucified with Jesus ; 
a circumstance tending, and apparently intended, to increase 
the public shame of His execution. '-'And there were also 
two other malefactors, led with Him to be put to death. 
And when they were come to the place which is called 
Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the malefactors, 
one on the right hand, and the other on the J eft." This 
aggravated ignominy unwittingly fulfilled the prophetic 
words — " He was numbered with the transgressors." 

" And one of the malefactors which were handed, railed 
on Him, saying, If Thou be Christ, save Thyself and 

No particulars of this man's personal history are <;dven. 
The brutal character of mind and heart apparent in his 
conduct, presupposes a gradual process of debasement • a 


succession of vicious feelings and wicked actions forming 
settled habits of sinful indulgence, and of delight in evil. 

Though all mankind are by nature sinful, it is by degrees 
that the character of impenitent and impenetrable hardness 
of heart is produced. Such enemies of mankind as Herod the 
Great and the emperor Nero were as harmless in the cradle 
as other infants. Temptations yielded to, and opportunities 
repeatedly and selfishly abused, made them the monsters 
they appear in their hateful history. It is so likely as to 
be almost certain, that this man's intensely malicious 
speech was the last in a long series of acts, by which his 
conscience was deadened, his mind polluted, and his heart 
hardened ; a series including, as in the case of Herod or 
Nero, numerous instances of temptations yielded to and 
opportunities selfishly abused; each repetition deepening 
and extending the influence of evil on the entire character. 

This man's dreadful situation combines misery and 
shame, aggravated by guilt, with the anguish of a death 
of slow torture. His words, and the dispositions which, 
in such awful circumstances, they reveal, are frightfully 
impressive. Abandoning himself entirely to evil, he 
appears to have been actuated by envy and hatred of that 
calmness of innocence which appeared in the suffering 
Saviour ; and by a spirit of mocking unbelief and scoffing, 
malignant sarcasm, which strove to give envenomed 
pungency to his implied meaning. Denying Jesus to be 
the Christ, he reviled Him, as a poor, detected pretender. 
We see in this malefactor a man desperately wicked, who 
sought a gloomy satisfaction in insulting his meek and 
loving fellow-sufferer; giving his full sympathy to the 
cruel bystanders, and showing a horrible state of feeling, 
which excites in a thoughtful beholder, a struggle between 
pity for his extreme and hopeless wretchedness, and solemn 
abhorrence of his wilfully intensified depravity. His 
sarcastic demand was one of the most bitter of the human 


inflictions the blameless goodness of Jesus endured on the 
cross. The taunts this railer took up from the chief 
priests with the scribes and elders, had a keenness from 

his lips more pungent than from theirs, malignant as they 

His perdition — within sight and hearing — even at the 
side of his Saviour — at the very time when for himself the 
atoning penalty was suffered, has an awful prominence 
amidst the many and mighty woes of our guilty race. Its 
causes were apparently the same which account for 
unnumbered hopeless wrecks of souls at the very mouth 
of the harbour of refuge ; unrepenting, unbelieving, and 
reckless neglect of the means of salvation, throughout the 
day of grace, till the Spirit who will not always strive 
with man, reluctantly gives the obstinate sinner up. 

We have to consider — 

Secondly, that part of this singular and momentous 
conversation which was spoken by the Penitent Male- 

" But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not 
thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation ? 
And we indeed justly ; for we receive the due reward of 
our deeds ; but this man hath done nothing amiss. And 
he said unto Jesus, Lord remember me when thou comest 
into Thy kingdom." 

This penitent's words present for consideration — his 
case, his reply to his fellow-sinner, and his appeal to 

1. His CASE. 

He, as well as the other, was miserable and guilty. His 
own words briefly present his case, without reserve or 
excuse. At the time of this conversation there was a 
great disparity between him and his fellow sinner, which 
can only be accounted for on general and probable grounds. 
Matthew and Mark make no distinction between the two. 


They appear to speak as human witnesses of what they 
personally saw and heard. Matthew, after mentioning the 
sarcasms of the chief priests with the scribes and elders, 
says, "The thieves also, which were crucified with Him, 
cast the same in His teeth." And Mark says, " And they 
that were crucified with Him reviled Him." Some learned 
divines think these evangelists put the plural for the 
singular, "as the best authors sometimes do." Perhaps 
during those dreadful hours, the attention of the anxious, 
deeply-dispirited disciples was so entirely occupied and 
absorbed with the astounding sufferings of their master, 
that they did not quite apprehend the whole case of the 
two malefactors. Luke, who wrote somewhat later, " of 
those things which," he says, "are most surely believed 
among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which 
from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of 
the word," and who also claim to have " had perfect 
understanding of all things from the very first," — proceeds, 
in his account of these events, to relate some important 
circumstances which, it seems, Matthew and Mark had not 
distinctly observed, or minutely investigated, or fully 
understood at the time, when the facts were taking place. 
Perhaps no one human witness would be able, at such a 
distracting crisis, amidst a restless and excited crowd, to 
see and hear and understand every thing that was said 
and done. The fact was, as it appears on putting the three 
accounts together, that both of the thieves were heard 
challenging Jesus' power to save them, but with the widest 
difference of meaning ; which Luke's account, supplement- 
ary, but not contrary, to the others, points out. 

In those evil times, authority was often exercised with 
great harshness and violence ; and many were thus made 
desperate, and goaded by intolerable oppression to break 
the laws of society. Without such a continuously criminal 
course of life as would have produced habitual hardness of 


heart, the penitent malefactor might have so far trans- 
gressed, through recent and strong temptation, as to incur 
the extreme penalty of the Eoman law. Or if his heart 
had been previously hardened, it was now softened by the 
good Spirit of Him, whose mercy takes loving and tender 
advantage of the yielding moments of a sinner's heart, so 
that " the worst need keep him out no more, nor force him 
to depart." By some means at some time in his previous 
course as a transgressor, he had been led to consider his 
ways, and to submit himself to Him who declares, 
Ezekiel xviii. 28, " Because he considereth, and turneth 
away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, 
he shall surely live, he shall not die." xviii. 30, " Repent, 
and turn yourselves from all your transgressions : so 
iniquity shall not be your ruin." 32, " For I have no 
pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord 
God : wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye." The par- 
ticulars of this penitent's history are not before us ; but 
according to the declared principle of divine dealings, such 
a change of mind as we have supposed, must have been 
wrought in him, before those fruits of grace could be pro- 
duced, which marked his dying hours. 

2. The reply of the penitent to his fellow-sinner, is 
incompatible with the supposition — that he also had at first 
joined in railing. "But the other answering rebuked him, 
saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the 
same condemnation ? And we indeed justly, for we receive 
the due reward of our deeds, but this man hath done 
nothing amiss." This was a master-piece of proper reproof; 
mild, serious, rational, humble, penetrating to the con- 
science; quite free from those airs of superiority in the 
reprover which so frequently counteract well-meant admo- 
nitions, by rousing to self-defence the pride of the person 

reproved. He speaks to the same effect as if he had said 

Hast thou, in this terrible situation, no fear of God whose 


awful presence is now brought so near to us, and before 
whom we must almost immediately stand ; as thou also art 
even now enduring the pains which will slowly, but surely, 
bring the death to which we are appointed? He thus puts 
himself on a level with the other ; softening rebuke with 
frank confession and unreserved humiliation. As the 
occasion of this reproof was the other's reviling of Jesus, 
he, on the contrary, avows his conviction of the innocence 
of their mysterious fellow-sufferer. The penitent might 
have been present in the judgment-hall, as a prisoner 
awaiting his doom, so as to have learned that Pilate 
answered the clamours of the accusers of Jesus, by asking — 
"Why, what evil hath He done?" and by declaring that 
neither he nor Herod had found any fault in Him. This 
penitent might on some occasion have heard our Lord in 
the course of His public ministry, and have witnessed some 
of His miracles. — He might thus have been satisfied that 
Jesus was indeed the Christ. The offence for which, as he 
confesses, he was justly punished, might have been com- 
mitted before he thus believed, or afterwards through 
unfaithfulness; but, for any thing we know to the contrary, 
he was a penitent before he was crucified. In the midst 
of his torments, while he acknowledged the justice of his 
own condemnation, he vindicated the innocence of Jesus. 
He showed himself anxious, not for the preservation of his 
life ; for that he did not ask ; but for the salvation of his 
soul; and for the salvation also of his fellow sinner; whom 
he so charitably warns, and so kindly invites to prepare to 
meet God. However and whenever his repentance began, 
it brought forth "fruits meet for repentance," and "answer- 
able to amendment of life." And whatever he had pre- 
viously been convinced of concerning Jesus as the Christ, 
was confirmed by all he saw in the incarnate Son, Son of 
David, and Son of God, the mysterious God-man, on the 



3. The penitent's appeal to Jesus. "And he said unto 
Jesus, Lord, remember me, when thou comest into thy 

This appeal, few as the words are, has wonderful fulness 
of meaning. It implies an extent and a spirituality of 
views concerning Christ as a King, to which the disciples 
of Jesus had not then attained. It presupposes an extra- 
ordinary faith : a faith which discerned and acknowledged 
the rights and powers of Jesus as a King, in His darkest 
hour; which openly submitted to His spiritual sceptre, 
and invoked the protection of His regal majesty, when He 
appeared least like a king ; which avowed solemn reliance 
on His saving power when His disciples were dismayed 
and confounded; which amidst a blaspheming multitude 
honoured Him as the Lord, when His apostles were afraid 
to own Him; which recognised Him as the king of a 
boundless and eternal dominion, at the very time and place 
in which the title King of the Jews was placed in mockery 
vover His crown of thorns; a faith which asked immortal 
gifts from Him as " the blessed and only potentate," when 
He was languishing in apparent helplessness and mortal 
pain, on that "shameful tree" which His sacrificial death 
has made honourable and glorious. The penitent asked a 
far greater thing, in earnest faith and hope, than his obdu- 
rate fellow-sinner demanded in incredulous scorn. Both 
malefactors took up the sayings of the bystanders; but 
with a completely opposite application. He who railed, 
said, " If Thou be Christ," derisively; meaning, that if Jesus 
were not, as the railer deemed, a self-deluding pretender, 
He would have had power to avoid the cross, or miracu- 
lously to quit it. He interpreted Jesus' non-resistance as 
evincing a want of power ; and, with bitter irony, called 
on Him to deliver Himself and His fellow-sufferers. The 
other, with contrite humility, appealed to His kingly power, 
as the Christ, believingly, as to a power extending, with 


supreme and boundless dominion, beyond life and death, 
into the inscrutable realm of the unseen and the ever- 

What the particulars of the penitent's life had been may 
not be made known to us till we also enter that mysterious 
region ; but, considering his pious deportment on the 
cross, his faithful use of precious opportunity, his full 
avowal of faith and hope in Jesus, it seems almost profane 
for procrastinating worldlings to excuse their presumptuous 
delays by classing themselves with this dying confessor of 
a dying Saviour. 

The sacred history being silent concerning any particu- 
lars of the former life of this man, whose end was so 
remarkable, the actual details cannot be supplied ; but the 
manner and circumstances of his end being so eminently 
and suggestively characteristic, it may be permitted us to 
reason cautiously backward from what is known to what 
is possible, respecting some slight and general indications 
of his previous course and his mental habits. 

The close reasoning, the moral force, and the godly 
principle of his remonstrance to his fellow-sinner would 
not have been inopportune or unlikely on the part of a 
well-instructed Jew, a diligent attender of the synagogues, 
a reader or a thoughtful hearer of the law and the prophets, 
all which this penitent might have been before he did the 
acts for which he was suffering. Our judicious commen- 
tator, Benson, remarks that " the word rendered malefactor, 
does not always denote a thief or a robber ; but was a term 
likewise applied to Jewish soldiers who were hurried by 
their zeal to commit some crime in opposition to the 
Roman authority." But whether the offence of this man 
was an act of robbery, or only some disorderly violence of 
zeal against the abhorred Eoman power, he sets up no plea 
of comparative harmlessness ; but simply confesses that he 
was justly punished. 


Eespecting .him who reasoned so well, as well as 
Nicodemus might have done, concerning himself and his 
fellow-sinner, concerning the blameless innocence of Jesus, 
and concerning His predicted kingdom ; the circumstances 
would prompt a question, for the answer to which we must 
wait, namely, Did he apprehend that Jesus, the meek, 
majestic sufferer at his side, was actually the very king 
proclaimed in the second Psalm, as the Lord's Anointed, 
whom kings of the earth, rulers, and peoples vainly set 
themselves to oppose and resist : that He was, as the 
evangelist, John, declares (John xii. 41) that same glorious 
and awful Lord whom, in vision, Isaiah saw in the temple, 
sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, when the : posts of 
the thresholds trembled at the voices of the seraphim, who 
cried one to another, and said, holy, holy, holy, is the Lord 
of hosts : that He, though then numbered with the trans- 
gressors, was the same mysterious and mighty being whom 
Nebuchadnezzar saw, with the three friends of Daniel in 
the furnace, when the astonished king said, " Lo, I see four 
men, loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and the form 
of the fourth is like the Son of God : " the same Being also, 
of whom Daniel says, " I saw in the night visions (Daniel 
vii. 13, 14) and, behold, one like the Son of Man- came with 
the clouds of heaven, and came to the ancient of days, and 
they brought him near before him. And there was given 
him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, 
nations, and languages, should serve him : his dominion is 
an everlasting dominion which shall not be destroyed." 
On the day before that in which He was crucified between 
the malefactors, He had been questioned by the high- 
priest, because to the words of the false witnesses he 
answered nothing. "Again the high-priest asked Him, 
and said unto Him, Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the 
blessed ? And Jesus said, I am : and ye shall see the Son 
of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in 


the clouds of heaven." (Mark xiv. 61.) By this answer, 
Jesus claimed to be that Son of Man, who was seen by- 
Daniel in vision ; as coming with the clouds of heaven, 
and receiving universal and everlasting dominion. For 
this penitent to be enabled to reason, to discern, and to 
speak, as he did on the cross, he must have been assisted 
in an extraordinary measure by the Holy Spirit, of whom 
Jesus said, "He shall glorify Me, for he shall receive of 
mine, and shall shew it unto you." 

Fully thirty years before these events — the most 
momentous since the fall in Eden — it was matter of public 
notoriety, that wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 
enquiring, " Where is He that was born king of the Jews ;" 
that Herod the Great, hearing of their enquiries, " was 
troubled, and all Jerusalem with him ;" and the chief 
priests and the scribes, being consulted on the question — 
where Christ should be born, answered by quoting the 
words of the prophet Micah, chapter v. And, as it was 
foretold, He, who between the two malefactors, was then 
enduring mysterious and tremendous agonies, had been 
born in Bethlehem Ephratah, and came forth to be ruler 
in Israel ; He, whose " goings forth have been from of old, 
from everlasting;" and who "shall be great unto the ends 
of. the earth." 

If by the Holy Spirit, these things were vividly 
brought to the remembrance and strongly impressed on the 
heart of him who said, "Lord remember me when Thou 
comest into Thy kingdom," his reverence and his devout 
confidence would be well accounted for. But whether this 
dying confessor thus remembered and apprehended these 
things or not, such were the facts. He whom the penitent 
had faith to acknowledge as the Lord of a kingdom to 
come, was the same Son of God and glorious king 
announced in the psalms; seen by Isaiah enthroned in 


the temple; by the fierce king of Babylon in the fiery 
furnace, by Daniel in the night visions, as one like the 
Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven ; and pre- 
dicted by Isaiah (ix. 5) as "the mighty God, the Father of 
the everlasting age" (Lowth) the founder of a new and 
perpetual family of God, and kingdom of grace. 

We have to consider 

Thirdly, that part of this momentous conversation, 
which consists of the sayings of Jesus. 

From the torturing cross, on which He hung by His 
wounds, Jesus replied like a king, " king of righteousness, 
and king of peace : " the mediatorial king, to whom all 
power is given in heaven and in earth. (Matthew xxviii. 
18.) His answer to the penitent confessor of His divine 
royalty, disposed of a greater boon than all the kingdoms 
of the world. " Verily, I say unto thee, to-day shalt thou 
be with Me in paradise/' These gracious words include 
the forgiveness of sin ; and would at once impart the peace 
of God to the believing soul of the penitent, who does not 
appear to have said anything more. It was not a time 
for needless remark. To speak at all must have been 
extremely difficult and painful. He had still much to 
endure ; a long-drawn agony. But he had received strong 
consolation; assured that his sufferings would end with 
the day ; and would then give place to sweet and eternal 
repose. He had but to bear his remaining pangs, with 
glorious peace in his soul, Christ at his side, and paradise 
in his mind's eye. 

2. In granting the prayer of the penitent, Jesus speaks a 
significant word concerning Himself, "To-day shalt thou 
be with Me in paradise." Who but He who spake "as 
never man spake," could in so few words have conveyed 
so much clear and happy meaning ? From His words as 
from what He says of the beggar Lazarus, we have the 


precious information, that the souls of those who so believe 
in Him that they "die in the Lord," enter at once into 

perfect rest. 

" Who trusting in their Lord depart, 
Cleansed from all sin, and pure in heart, 
The bliss unmixed, the glorious prize, 
They find with Christ in paradise." 

The words of Jesus imply that He went from the cross 
to the abode of departed saints, in the spiritual world, or 
paradise ; carrying to glorified patriarchs and prophets, the 
news and the trophies of redemption accomplished. 

3. The hardened sinner did not perish through any 
impossibility of being saved; but through neglect of his 
last precious opportunity. To him Jesus gave no answer. 
He had been sufficiently, wisely, and kindly answered by 
his fellow-sufferer. His heart and conscience seem to have 
been inaccessible. He was self-abandoned. 

In answer to him, and to all the railers, Jesus could have 
done all he was challenged to do. As the true Christ, He 
had all, and more than all, the power He was challenged 
to put forth. Had it pleased Him so to do, he could in a 
moment have overwhelmed His enemies ; either with easy 
and silent manifestations of power ; as in the instance 
John mentions in the garden ; — " as soon then as He had 
said unto them, I am He, they went backward and fell to 
the ground;" — or with such terrors of the Lord, as will 
attend Him, when He, as " Our God shall come, and shall 
not keep silence : a fire shall devour before Him, and it 
shall be very tempestuous round about Him." But, as He 
said, a few days before to Peter, in the garden, " How then 
shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?" In 
the sufferings which filled His accusers with exultation, 
and His disciples with dismay, there was a mystery which 
neither foes nor friends could interpret. He, "Christ 
Jesus, came into the world to save sinners." As the Lamb 


of God,— the Lamb provided by God Himself at Jehovah 
Jireh, according to Abraham's prophetic saying, for the 
great sacrifice,— He yielded Himself unresistingly to all 
the inflictions His stupendous enterprise required of Him, 
"who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the 
cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right 
hand of the throne of God." 

By His atoning sorrows, He had rendered an equivalent 
for the penalty of the world's transgressions, when — " it 
was exacted, and he was made answerable." The Lord 
made to light upon him, "the iniquity of us all;" when, 
" as a Lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep 
before her shearers is dumb ; so he opened not his mouth , 
though by an oppressive judgment he was taken off." 
Though, " he had done no wrong, neither was any guile in 
his mouth, yet it pleased the Lord to crush him with 
affliction." (Lowth.) By his accepted sacrifice, he became 
"the propitiation" — "for the sins of the whole world." 
When therefore he graciously answered — "Verily, I say 
unto thee, to-day shalt thou be with me in paradise : " His 
word of power would impart peace : the peace of God 
the inivard kingdom, of righteousness, peace, and joy in the 
Holy Ghost, to the dying confessor of his dominion, who 
had obtained his promise, and was immediately to follow 
him, and to be with him in paradise. 

Let us learn to dread and to avoid the hardness oi 
heart to which procrastinating worldliness leads ; endan- 
gering the soul to the uttermost, and threatening it with 
hopeless and endless ruin. 

Let us learn to act like the penitent, in using present 
opportunities ; in coming unreservedly and immediately to 
Him who receiveth sinners still; who is Jesus, the Saviour 
still ; present as the God-Man, with divine attributes and 
human sympathies combined in one Christ, at the side ol 
every penitent, who humbly and sincerely trusts in Him 


having "ail power in heaven and in earth," as the media- 
torial king; and "able to save them to the uttermost that 
come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make 
intercession for them." 

He shewed himself gracious to hear and "mighty to 
save," even in his hour of languishing weakness and mortal 
pain ; ready, amidst His own agonies, to give effectual 
attention to the prayer of a contrite spirit. How much 
more probable, according to human apprehension, that He 
should now hear and save, on the mercy -seat, to which the 
right hand of God has exalted Him, where He ever liveth, 
in His immortal manhood, to make intercession for us; 
and where, as the eternal Son of God, He is our mighty 
intercessor, "who is the blessed and only potentate, the 
king of kings, and lord of lords; who only hath immor- 
tality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach 
unto, whom no man hath seen nor can see : to whom be 
honour and power everlasting." Amen. 

Xote. By the gracious dealing of our Lord with the 
penitent, what impressive exemplification is given of 
sayings — already gloriously emphatic — in the psalms and 
the gospels, which speak of tender mercy, and of loving 
kindness. The father of the baptist says, in his inspired 
testimony, "to give knowledge of salvation to his people 
by remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our 
God; whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited 
us." The spirit of many passages in the Psalms is breathed 
in that prayer of David, " Withhold not Thou Thy tender 
mercies from me, O Lord ; let Thy loving kindness and 
Thy truth continually preserve me." The mercies men 
extend to their fellow- creatures are often wanting in ten- 
derness ; and the kindnesses they bestow are too frequently 
tainted with some unpleasant savour of ostentation, or of 
calculating and far-seeing selfishness : but the Lord's 
mercies are tender, and His kindness is loving. 



I have heard it said by good men of long experience 
and wise discernment, concerning a great preacher and 
learned theologian, whose praise was and is in our 
churches, who passed to his reward above forty years ago, 
and who was owned of God as the herald of mercy to 
many souls; that, with all his wonderful pathos and 
persuasive skill, in setting forth the saving truth, there 
was about him a methodical rigidity, as well as an habitual 
godly jealousy of erroneous doctrine and of the deceitful- 
ness of sin, which sometimes led him to surround his 
statements of gospel-truth with so many strict guards, and 
systematic distinctions, that, as they expressed it, he 
seemed to make the " exceeding great and precious pro- 
mises," too hot to he taken hold of by a timid and trembling 
sinner. Not so did Jesus deal with the penitent malefactor. 






" And herein do I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of 
offence toward God, and toward men." — Acts xxiv. 16. 

All persons who are sincerely and intelligently religious 
must have an unfeigned and profound respect for brethren 
who, in a spirit of Christian zeal and self-sacrifice, have 
devoted their lives to the missionary department of our 
work. The love of Christ will constrain us to honour the 
high and holy motives which have determined them to 
leave behind the manifold advantages of advanced 
Christian civilization in their native land ; and to 
encounter the unknown hazards and exhausting labours, 
and to endure the privations, of a residence among savage 
or semi-barbarous tribes. Especially must w T e respect 
ministers w T ho repeatedly go forth to such difficult and 
trying enterprises : and when we look at the noble 
elements of character which such undertakings require and 
presuppose, we shall feel little disposition to obtrude 
advice on a class of men whom, for their work's sake, we 
so greatly honour. And those who have already laboured 
in the foreign field possess, as the result of personal expe- 
rience and observation, a knowledge of many particulars, 
which we, who stay in England, can but understand and 
appreciate in a vague and general manner. Such consi- 
derations tend to disincline us from any line of remark 
which is not chiefly of a general nature, such as the scenes 
of home-observation may enable us to venture upon, 


without "stretching beyond our measure" into "another 
man's line." 

When we endeavour to place ourselves mentally in the 
positions occupied by our foreign missionaries, that which 
we perceive most impressively is, — that they need at once 
the highest degree of pure and elevated conscientiousness, and 
the aptitudes of a sound and ready practical judgment. 

Any person who can, even imperfectly, realize the 
peculiar circumstances of their various spheres of labour, 
whether amidst the ancient and deeply corrupt and pol- 
luted civilizations of the East, amongst the Pagan barba- 
rians of Africa, or the cannibal tribes of the Polvnesian 
islands, considering that the missionaries are in many 
instances separated by distance from European brother- 
hood and counsel, and have often to deal alone with 
restless, fickle, fierce, and faithless natives, whom early 
associations and immemorial habits have made callous and 
shameless on many subjects from which the Christian 
mind instinctively recoils; considering also that on some 
occasions our brethren are called upon, by pressing neces- 
sity, to decide and to act without human counsel, without 
complete information, amidst complications of fraud and 
danger ; considering these things, any person who but 
imperfectly estimates the perplexities and emergencies in 
which they are liable to be placed, will be disposed to 
admit that — still more than those who minister in such a 
country as ours, and whatever other qualifications may be 
dispensed with — they need, in a very eminent degree, 
those which have been mentioned, — a pure and elevated 
conscientiousness, and the aptitudes of a sound and ready 
practical judgment. 

It is easy to put together the words and phrases which 
express these important qualifications ; and, when they are 
distinctly expressed, most persons will find little difficulty 
in forming a clear, general conception of them; but to 


produce them in living reality, and much more to secure 
them in actively working combination, are achievements of 
great magnitude and rare felicity. Yet to realize aud 
combine them ought to be less difficult than it is usually 
found to be. For the grace of God can enable every 
Christian to be universally conscientious ; and practical 
judgment is probably one of the most improvable of mental 
qualifications. The small progress usually made in this 
respect has apparently a moral cause : — the quality of clear 
and sober judgment is not brilliant and dazzling ; it is not 
adapted for display; it does not feed vanity, nor stimulate 
ambition ; it is therefore not earnestly and generally culti- 
vated ; and is, consequently, but rarely attained. 

Other reasons of a moral nature might be adduced to 
show why the attainment of practical judgment is usually 
so slow and limited. There are large classes of subjects 
respecting which persons of small abilities, — if stimulated 
by interest, and placed amidst frequent opportunities of 
exercising such judgment as they have, — do acquire a 
quick and sure discernment of the qualities and conditions 
of those things about which they are concerned ; and, in 
the facility and certainty of such discernment, they excel 
persons of greater mental power, whose attention has been 
rarely given to the things in question, and who have 
mostly felt little or no interest in them. 

In such matters as the material, texture, and finish of a 
piece of woollen cloth, a clothier, woollen draper, or tailor, 
of common mind, can decide more quickly and correctly 
than a person of high faculties, who has neither the requi- 
site familiarity with the article, nor the constantly-recurr- 
ing motive of a personal interest in judging carefully and 
avoiding mistakes. The same principles equally apply to 
the difference between the opinions hastily given by clever 
townsmen about soils, and crops, and farming stock, and 
the knowledge actually possessed by most of the rude 


tillers of the ground, towards whom the urban critics are 
inclined to be supercilious. The citizens, in such cases, 
are often mistaken, and the rustics right ; because, in the 
matters spoken of, such judgment as the men of the field 
are capable of has been often and carefully applied ; while, 
as to the same things, the ready-witted and' free-speaking 
townsmen have had neither occasion nor motive for fre- 
quent and earnest observation. 

In questions of morals and of general prudence, that 
feeling of personal interest, which sharpens dull faculties 
concerning things involving gain or loss, is not only often 
wanting on the side of truth and right, but is too often 
enlisted on the wrong side. The right judgment which 
many persons cannot avoid having in some degree, is, like 
conscience, reluctantly listened to ;. and, on various pre- 
texts, put aside, evaded, and practically frustrated. Sound 
judgment and religious self-denial are, though on different 
grounds, equally opposed to the excesses of passion and 
appetite, and wayward self-will, and to the illusions of 
vanity and ambition. They are, therefore, equally counter- 
acted by the habits of thought and feeling which those 
men love to indulge who are too selfish, sensual, covetous, 
proud, passionate, frivolous, or vain to learn the wisdom 
that dwells with prudence. 

The book which teaches that, considered intellectually, 
true religion is wisdom ; morally and experimentally, faith 
working by love ; practically, the keeping of God's com- 
mandments ; also complains and expostulates in a manner 
which implies — that men might have better judgment if 
they would, that they ought to have it, and that their want 
of it is without excuse. In the first chapter of the Proverbs, 
sinners are reproached and threatened — "For that they 
hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord : 
they would none of my counsel: they despised all my 
reproof. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall 


dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil." The 
following passages presuppose that wisdom, which is the 
highest judgment, may be obtained by the simple and 
ignorant, if they are willing to receive instruction. " Pon- 
der the path of thy feet, and all thy ways shall be ordered 
aright." (Proverbs iv. 26, margin.) " Doth not wisdom 
cry? and understanding put forth her voice?" "Unto 
you, men, I call ; and my voice is to the sons of man. 
ye simple, understand wisdom : and, ye fools, be ye of 
an understanding heart." " All the words of m} T mouth 
are in righteousness ; there is nothing frow 7 ard or perverse 
in them. They are all plain to him that understandeth, 
and right to them that find knowledge." " I love them 
that love me ; and those that seek me early shall find me." 
(Proverbs viii. 1, 4, 5, 8, 9, 17.) 

The dependence of the judgment on moral influence is 
apparent in the fact — that some pleaders at the bar, who 
have been pre-eminently judicious in discerning and 
managing all the elements of success in conducting a 
cause, have been as conspicuously defective and erroneous 
in the conduct of life. They were steadily bent on 
winning causes, and thereby gaining fame and wealth, and 
the interest they felt in their ends guided and strengthened 
their judgment in the choice and use of suitable means ; 
but they were not in earnest about living well, and neg- 
lected the only sure means of so doing. It is notorious 
that multitudes, who avoid the extremes of vice, have 
opinions and prejudices to the effect — that humility, 
patience, meekness, and prudence are marks of a spiritless 
character. They admire impetuous, fiery energy, and have 
more sympathy for the gloomy desperation of a Tied 
Indian, chanting his fierce death-song, than for the 
Christian virtues of childlike obedience and hopeful 
resignation. For such persons to have good judgment, 
would be more surprising than that they should be 


examples of the want of it. The unerring and eternal 
wisdom gives such precepts as — " He that is slow to anger 
is better than the mighty." "Only by pride cometh 
contention." " When pride cometh, then cometh shame : 
but with the lowly is wisdom." " As wood to fire, so is a 
contentious man to kindle strife/' "In the multitude of 
words there wanteth not sin." " He that is hasty of spirit 
exalteth folly." (Proverbs xvi. 32; xiii. 10; xi. 2; xxvi. 
21 ; x. 19; xiv. 29.) "Wherefore, let every man be swift 
to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath." (James i. 19.) To 
expect sound judgment from those who, even as professors 
of religion, disregard these great principles, and who are 
not ashamed to be froward, peevish, perverse, vindictive, 
or vain-glorious, would be to look for " grapes of thorns, or 
figs of thistles." 

An able foreign agent of the London Missionary Society, 
stated in a recent meeting of one of its auxiliaries, that a 
missionary in India, as far as usefulness and efficiency 
>were concerned, might almost as well be without piety as 
without prudence. And the judicious Doddridge, whose 
"Lectures on Preaching, and the several branches of the 
Ministerial Office," contain precious treasures of good 
counsel, advises a young minister respecting certain " sub- 
stantial and intelligent persons in a congregation " to 
" endeavour not only to secure the affection, but the 
reverence of such. This," he says, " can only be done by 
a prudent and steady conduct, and by solid and strong 
sense, both in the pulpit and in conversation. Beware 
they do not think you a weak, but w T ell-meaning man." 
" To those who are disaffected to your person and ministry, 
be not sharp-sighted to see it ; and when it is so plain that 
it cannot be overlooked, if they are good men, talk over the 
affair mildly with them, and endeavour to effect a recon- 
ciliation if possible; and if that cannot be done, dismiss 
them with as good a testimonial, as to their character, as 


their case will bear. If they are vicious men, be still, till 
an opportunity offers of exposing and overbearing them at 
once." These extracts show how highly that eminent man 
valued and cultivated practical judgment. 

But no abatement can be made from the phrase, — 
universally conscientious. " In all thy ways acknowledge 
Him." (Prov. iii. 6.) " Whosoever therefore shall break 
one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, 
he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven : but 
whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be 
called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. v. 19.) 
" Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, 
do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor. x. 31.) " And herein" 
(that is, in his hope toward God) " do I exercise myself, to 
have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and 
toward men." (Acts xxiv, 16.) Whenever, or wherever, 
moral right or wrong can be done, there is something for the 
conscience to deal with. 

Some of the perplexities of many conscientious persons 
arise partly from the ambiguities of current phraseology, 
and partly from their own careless and inaccurate use of 
words, especially those by which subjects of a moral or 
mental nature are expressed. Not a few persons talk of 
their " conscience" or their " principles," when they really 
mean their " notions," or their " opinions," or even their 
" prejudices/' Sometimes this exchange of terms is a 
rhetorical artifice, intended to obtain for their notions or 
opinions, the respect due only to their conscience or their 
principles. But, not seldom, those who use these words 
interchangeably, impose upon themselves ; and feel bound 
to be as stiff and impracticable in standing by their mere 
opinions, as if they were vital principles, or plain and 
genuine points of conscience. 

A young man, more than fifty years ago, mentioned to 
the excellent Minister who gave him his first Methodist 


ticket, a matter which he took to be a point of conscience, 
and on which he was somewhat anxious and doubtful 
His Minister answered to the effect, that a tender conscience 
was a very excellent and necessary thing ; but that a 
scrupulous conscience was a very perplexing and trouble- 
some thing. He evidently used the word scrupulous in the 
sense given in the dictionaries, — " nicely doubtful, hard to 
satisfy in determinations of conscience ; given to objections, 
captious." We think we have seen many exemplifications 
of both parts of that Minister's observation. And we have 
a notion that weak and scrupulous consciences are commonly 
found in connection with a feebleness or a want of judgment. 
Were we requested to describe a crotchety character, we 
should say that, in a good man, its usual elements are, — 
a narrow understanding, a stiff temper, a suspicious imagi- 
nation, and a scrupulous conscience. 

" Dubius is such, a scrupulous good man, — 
Yes — you may eatch him tripping if you can, 
He would not, with a peremptory tone, 
Assert the nose upon his face his own." * 

Yet the poet himself so caught Dubius tripping, as to be 
moved to make his ludicrous excess of punctilious care the 
occasion of this pungent remark ; which, like an instanta- 
neous photograph, preserves for our use, the very lineaments, 
the character, manner, and expression, as they impressed 
the discerning observer, and were transferred to his 
enduring page. No doubt the person, thus vividly 
sketched by a few master-strokes, was one of Cowper's 
actual acquaintances in the last century. If he has any 
descendants now living, they may be thankful that no clue 
is given by which their ancestor's proper name can be 
discovered. Tor the eye of genius, like that of the 
fabulous Medusa, or of the angel who saw Lot's wife 

* Cowper. 


looking back, fossilizes what attracts its formidable glance. 

To us, who know not who Dubius was, he represents a 
large class, who, by their mistakes and affectations as 
dunces, or their tricks as pretenders, do much to cause a 
good and necessary thing, — an indispensable good, — to be 
lightly esteemed, and rashly spoken against. Men who, 
like Dubius, exhibit conscientiousness apart from good 
sense, and in the degrading company of folly, not only make 
themselves ridiculous, but cause even their "good to be 
evil spoken of," and tempt the undiscerning many to 
regard conscientiousness itself with suspicion or contempt. 


" If white and black blend, soften, and unite 
A thousand ways, is there no black or white ? " * 

Unnumbered shades of grey do not destroy or put in 
doubt the distinct reality of black and white. Overdoing 
blunderers, like Dubius, console men of careless lives, by 
giving occasion for the excuse that, if they are wrong for 
want of care, they can point out some who are wrong from 
excess of care, — on the foolish principle, often actually used 
in recriminating defence of culpable errors, that two blacks 
make a white, or two wrongs make a right. But these 
errors should warn upright minds of the importance of 
maintaining, in practice, a close and obvious alliance 
between conscientiousness and good sense. " What is the 
chaff to the wheat ? saith the Lord." There is a wide 
difference, both in quality and operation, between pharasaic 
scrupulosity in trifles and the religious integrity that is 
"in the fear of the Lord all the day long." It is nothing 
less than the difference between form and substance ; or 
between a coloured waxen image and a living person. 

Are not conscience, principle, and firmness, — both the 
words and the things they signify, — often misapplied 

* Pope, 


through inattention to the important distinction between 
things for which there is no just or lawful substitute, and 
things for which there may be various innocent and useful 
substitutes ? 

For instance, there is not, there cannot be, any substitute 
for plain integrity. What is falsely called honour, and 
what is truly called plausibility, with all the forms and 
degrees of cleverness, address, and dexterity, are no substi- 
tutes for integrity. A Christian should never entertain 
the thought of any substitution or exchange for this, or 
for any other moral or religious virtue. 

Again, none of the virtues, nor any mental endowments or 
achievements, can ever be substitutes for personal godliness, 
or faith working by love, and producing all the fruits of 

Nothing, again, can be a substitute, in the case of a 
minister or missionary, for the spirit of the Christian 
ministry, including the call of God, zeal for His glory, pity 
for perishing sinners, and love of the brethren. Learning, 
eloquence, tact, and varied accomplishments, may somewhat 
disguise essential deficiency, but cannot by any means 
supply the place of the indispensable qualifications. 

And nothing, amongst us, can be efficacious as a substi- 
tute for the spirit of the Wesleyan ministry. With us, it 
is indispensable to comfort and success, that, while we love 
all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, the mind, 
heart, and habits, of our ministers and missionaries should 
be in spontaneous harmony with the spirit of their own 
denomination. " Can two walk together, except they be 
agreed?" (Amos iii. 3.) The truth implied in this question 
is of great practical importance. Our discipline and 
usages have a powerful tendency to preserve our oneness 
as a religious body; but it is desirable that each of us 
should use means to keep ourselves right in this respect. 
About half-a-century ago, a young preacher, who was 


temporarily supplying the pulpit, during the protracted 
illness of an afflicted minister, stated that his practice 
was — to read Mr. Wesley's sermons at the rate of one a 
day, which, he said, did not occupy more than from ten to 
fifteen minutes. When he had thus read them all, he 
began again with the first ; and thus, by easy and gradual 
means, secured a familiar acquaintance with the contents 
of those precious volumes. A missionary should also 
endeavour, by a careful reading of our Minutes, and other 
connexional publications, to be well-informed respecting 
our home-work; and, by a studious attention to the 
"Instructions to Missionaries," prefixed to each Annual 
Eeport, should have his mind stored with prudential 
counsels, suitable for various exigencies in his peculiar 
sphere of duty. 

Conscience, principle, and firmness, belong to matters of 
the kind for which no substitutes can be found. 

But when any person applies these terms, and the things 
they signify, to matters which rather belong to the sphere 
of judgment and prudence, the results are confusion and 

There are many things for which substitutes not only 
■mn.y be found, but should be sought, when needed. 

The cases are various and numerous, in which an upright 
and prudent man, when he cannot have what he, perhaps 
rightly, prefers, will look for the next best. To refuse to do 
so, is not principle, but perversity; not proper firmness, 
but obstinacy; not enlightened conscientiousness, but weak 
and purblind scrupulosity. It is not pleasant to have 
frequent intercourse, even with a friend, who is always 
talking about his conscience ; and who, on the plea of 
conscience, is fastidious, contentious, and pertinacious. 
Such persons resemble a certain inhabitant of the waters, 
which wears its bones outside ; presenting a hard and exterior instead of skin ; and grasping, with indis- 


criminate tenacity, whatever it can take hold of. The 
conscience should rather be like the column of bones in 
the human frame : unseen and unheard, but imparting 
central support and stability to the whole system of the 


The proper application of principle and expediency, — 
both as to the expressions and the qualities they express, 
— depends very much on the question whether the point 
to be determined is a matter of plain moral right or wrong, 
in which a pure conscience has no alternative, and can 
find no substitute for what is best; or, whether it is a matter 
admitting of opinion, of variety, of preference, of degrees, 
— in which, what we prefer being wanting and unattain- 
able, we may and should look for the next best. The habit 
of justly classifying these things is necessary to make the 
upright man also a judicious practical man, who " guides 
his affairs with discretion." An upright man will have 
his means lawful, as well as his ends ; but if he is wise, he 
will make a great difference, in practice, between ends and 
MEA.NS. In the face of cold or fierce obstructions, a 
decided and sagacious character may seem to superficial 
observers, to be giving up his purposes, when he is only 
giving up one set of means, and advisedly changing his 
plan of operation, to secure his ends in a new, and, 
perhaps, equally effectual manner. It would probably be 
found, as the result of extended investigation, that the 
great men of action have mostly been immovably resolute 
as to their ends, but prudently flexible as to their means. 
He who will insist upon having his own way in all 
respects, his own methods and instruments, as well as ends, 
without variation or adaptation according to circumstances, 
and who makes conscience of doing so, must have great 
advantages of position to prevent him from being made 
the victim of circumstances; while he who, with clear 
views and strong purposes, knows how and when to yield, 



may mould and wield even untoward circumstances, and 
make them subserve his general aims. 

When the address comprising the preceding paragraph 
was delivered, the writer had not seen Isaac Taylor's 
"Wesley and Methodism." The following sentences in 
Mr. Taylor's work are remarkably confirmatory of the 
views expressed above. 

"Charles Wesley would have been stopped on his course, 
while struggling with his abhorrence of that only means of 
carrying forward the work they had commenced — lay- 
preaching. But John could be stopped by no interior 
reluctance, as by no external obstacle or opposition, when 
once the work he was born to achieve stood out clearly 
developed before him. At this time it did so stand devel- 
oped in his view ; and while he, of all men, was the most 
self-determining in relation to whatever came under his 
entire control, none was more docile than he, or more quick 
to adapt himself to new circumstances, when called upon 
by his religious convictions, or by his practical good sense, 
to relinquish his cherished opinions. Besides, men of his 
order of mind are seen more readily to give way to the 
course of events, than others do, because, while they do so, 
they inwardly rely upon that inexhaustible store of expe- 
dients, and of ready skill, which will enable them, though 
driven from their path for a time, to return to it anon." 

When we are painfully excited by "hope deferred" of 
great good which powerful obstructions preclude us from 
achieving, or by the prevalence of hateful and, at the time, 
immovable causes of social mischief, it will be assuring 
and consoling to call to remembrance some glimpses from 
the serene, all-seeing wisdom, which shine upon the per- 
plexed and beclouded scenes of time, as light in darkness. 
Our missionaries may, sometimes, in far countries, observe 
grievous evils which they cannot remedy, wickedness in 
powerful positions which they cannot directly counteract 


or restrain; an$, in the presence of helpless suffering, or 
triumphant and destructive vice, may be tempted to 
indulge a degree of anxiety beyond what is either needful 
or useful. They may have occasion to say, " I saw under 
the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there ; 
and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there." 
(Ecclesiastes iii. 16.) "So I returned, and considered all 
the oppressions that are done under the sun : and behold 
the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no com- 
forter ; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; 
but they had no comforter/' (Ecclesiastes iv. 1.) But, 
"If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent 
perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel 
not at the matter : for He that is higher than the highest 
regardeth." (Ecclesiastes v. 8.) " Fret not thyself 
because of evil-doers, neither be thou envious against the 
workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down 
like the grass, and wither as the green herb." (Psalm 
xxxvii. 1, 2.) 

As to the misrepresentations and calumnies to which a 
conscientious and faithful course of action may expose us, 
let us " also take no heed unto all words that are spoken/' 
(Ecclesiastes vii. 21.) And let us be encouraged, while 
we follow the faith and practice, to emulate the confidence 
of him who says, "Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of 
our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not 
with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have 
had our conversation in the world." (2 Corinthians i. 12.) 
And let us maintain the high-principled patience recom- 
mended by him who says, "Having a good conscience; 
that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evil-doers, they 
may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversa- 
tion in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, 
that ye suffer for well-doing, than for evil-doing." (1 Peter 
iii. 16, 17.) And while we have reason to "trust, we 


have a good conscience, in all things willing to live 
honestly," (Hebrews xiii. 18), let us not be astonished or 
dismayed at every extravagance of frivolous or mischievous 
gossip; for, "the tongue" (of idle rumour) "can no man 
tame." (James iii. 8). Why then should we be continually 
defending our reputation ? Many slanders and mistakes 
may be safely let alone, while we are about our Master's 

The great means of support to Christian calmness and 
fortitude is, to take care that we walk in the light of God's 
countenance. Many apparently desirable things may be 
out of our reach, but this is the ascertained privilege of 
the people of God. "Having, therefore, brethren, boldness 
to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus and 

having an high priest over the house of God," we may 
"draw near, with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, 
having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience." 
(Hebrews x. 19-22.) "They shall walk, Lord, in the 
light of Thy countenance." (Psalm lxxxix. 15.) "He that 
followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have 
the light of life." (John viii. 12.) What better can we 
desire? "There be many that say, Who will show us any 
good? Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance 
upon us." (Psalm iv. 6.) " If God be for us, who can be 
against us?" (Eomans viii. 31.) It is thus our privilege 
to " be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might." 
(Ephesians vi. 10.) If we are so, we shall not want forti- 
tude in the day of trial; His grace will be sufficient for 
us ; and we shall be " more than conquerors through Him 
that loved us." 



" Let us therefore follow after the things wnich make for peace, and things 
wherewith one may edify another." — Romans xiv. 19. 

It is said in the next chapter, verse 4, " Whatsoever 
things were written aforetime were written for our learn- 
ing," meaning the things recorded concerning the patriarchs, 
concerning the Israelites in Egypt or in the wilderness, or 
in the days of the judges, kings, and prophets. It may 
with equal truth be said — that the disputes and mistakes 
of some members of the Apostolical churches were written, 
in the New Testament, for our learning, that the cautions 
and counsels addressed to them, may instruct and profit us 
and all believers to the end of time. The text has some 
reference to misunderstandings and dissensions in the 
primitive churches, concerning matters which owed much 
of their interest to the prejudices and excited feelings of 
those who contended about them. The Apostle, in effect, 
cautions his readers against so magnifying such things as 
to mistake them for essentials ; and exhorts them to keep 
in view, and to strive for, better and greater things. 

Neither in a morning nor an evening congregation can 
we be assured that all present are in a state of salvation. 
We trust many of you are so, with various degrees of 
spiritual growth. Those who are in a state of grace will 
find in the text something which concerns themselves, as to 
their wants, dangers, or duties. If any persons feel as if 
the duties and the cautions urged by the Apostle were no 
concern of theirs, it is too likely that, at present, they have 
neither part nor lot in the blessings and privileges of 
Christian believers. 


The words of this exhortation lead us to consider the 
Nature and the Obligation of what is required. 
I. The Nature of what is required. 

1. Excellent and precious ends are proposed, — 

Peace among the people of God, and their mutual 

These are closely and naturally connected. 

Peace ; not the peace of dead or indifferent souls ; but 
of loving and earnest members of Christ. 

Edification ; the building up of believers in truth and 

2. The means — are the things which make for the ends 

Things which make for peace. 

Not — the absence of firmness in matters of plain duty. 
This does not answer either in families or churches. 

Not — the sacrifice of purity or integrity for quietness. 
The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle 
and easy to be entreated ; full of mercy and good fruits ; 
without partiality and without hypocrisy. 

Not — the giving up of what we ought to do, or the doing 
of what is wrong for the mere sake of avoiding opposition 
or dissension. 

Not — the hazarding of future peace and order for present 

Not — a mere truce with difficulties. Calm courage, a 
firm, open, unshrinking adherence to truth and righteous- 
ness, prevents many small attacks which incessantly cross 
the path of the cowardly. 

But — the things which make for peace are — to feel and 
to shew towards those we have to deal with 

Humility — not thinking of ourselves more highly than 
we ought to think — let each esteem other better than 
himself — in honour preferring one another. 


Love — which* worketh no ill to our neighbour; but walks 
charitably ; that is, lovingly. 

Mutual respect — not grudging, censuring, or despising one 
another. " Honour all men." 

Fair and just dealing— equity, sincerity, rendering to all 
their due — owing no man anything. 

Patience — bearing the infirmities of the weak and 

Forbearance — not harshly condemning, but respecting the 
conscientious scruples of others, neither avenging nor 
pleasing ourselves, in a spirit of self-will. 

Rendering not evil for evil, but good for evil; not 
attempting, as corrupt nature would prompt, to overcome 
evil with evil, but overcoming evil with good. 

The contraries of these destroy peace. 

By Pride cometh contention. To show contempt of 
others, to betray self-seeking or self-will, to urge and 
pertinaciously claim the extreme of what we think due to 
us — are not the ways or means to peace, but provocations 
to strife. 

Peace cannot be had or kept on the plan of each one 
demanding all that he may think he has a right to. 

A society or church composed entirely of self-important, 
scornful, censorious, self-willed, and obstinate persons, can 
have no peace ; but will be most unamiable, distracted and 
miserable, and incapable of being edified till better dis- 
positions prevail. 

Peace is not of itself an active thing-^it is a negative 
of strife and its many vexatious consequences ; but all 
the graces and virtues, and all the best endowments of 
mind and character promote and fortify true peace. 

There must be peace, that there may be edification — 
' ( Then had the churches rest, and were edified." Acts ix. 31. 

2, After peace has been obtained, or after all right means 


have been used to obtain and preserve it, there are other 
" Things wherewith one may edify another." 

To watch over each other, not suspiciously or enviously, 
but with godly jealously. 

To exhort, instruct, and admonish one another, not 
reproachfully, but with meekness and gentleness. 

To feel and shew sympathy — rejoice with them that 
rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 

To keep in view ourselves, and remind others, of the 
principal things — and not allow ourselves to be turned 
away from them to trifles. 

The contraries hinder edification. 

To be indifferent or careless about the spiritual state, — 
the mental or moral improvement, the joys or griefs of 
others ; or to let trifles turn us aside from great things, will 
keep ourselves from being built up or made strong in the 
Lord, and from being made useful to others. 

3. A persevering use of the means enjoined. 

The things which make for peace and for mutual edifi- 
cation, we are charged to 

Follow after 

It is not enough that we avoid saying or doing things 
that offend or provoke others, or that we be quiet if others 
will let us alone. We must study to be quiet, and strive 
for mutual edification. 

We must seek, keep in mind, diligently and carefully 
cultivate the means, for the sake of the ends ; and contrary 
things must be forborn and avoided. 

For the sake of peace, we must not use the grievous 
words that stir up anger, but the soft answer that turneth 
aiv ay wrath. 

The love of peace, the desire for edification, w r ill both 
suggest and animate the use of suitable means. 

II. The obligation of what is enjoined. 


Let us therefore, because of the certain and momentous 
truths and facts previously stated and urged. 

In particular 

Because of the inferior and trivial nature of most of 
those things which are occasions of strife and causes of 
offence among Christian brethren. 

Meats, drinks, washings, sprinklings — matters of cere- 
mony or outward observance, or of human theory or 
opinion, — things which may be either observed or omitted, 
attended to or let alone, without sin : things indifferent. 

In such things a great amount of self-will, of passion 
and prejudice, and domineering arrogance is too often 
engaged ; to the neglect or violation of great obligations. 

Less things than these — personal preferences, individual 
whims, poor petty objects, are, through the depths of 
human weakness and the errors of good men, allowed to 
become occasions of offence. 

Awful and irreparable mischief may be caused to the 
church on earth, and to the souls of individuals by a selfish 
course. " Through thy knowledge shall the weak brother 
perish for whom Christ died?" We might also ask — 
Through thy self-will, or want of patience, or forbearance, 
or fidelity — shall the weak brother perish for whom Christ 

The comprehensive responsibility — present and future, of 
all to Christ. He now governs, and will hereafter judge 
His people. Eomans xiv. 1 0. " For we shall all stand 
before the judgment seat of Christ." 

He that in these things — the chief things — righteousness, 
peace, and joy, etc., serveth Christ, is acceptable to God 
and approved of men. In mutual prejudices and conten- 
tions His government is easily lost sight of. 

There is the additional consideration of the Apostle's 
inspiration and authority — the word of God by him on 


3se and many other passages. Romans xii. 1 8. " If it 

possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with 

men." Ephesians iv. 31. "And be ye kind one to 

other, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as 

id for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you." v. 1, 2. "Be 

therefore followers of God, as dear children ; And walk 

love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given 

mself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for 

sweet-smelling savour." Colossians iii. 12. "Put on 

irefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of 

srcies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long- 


And his example, combining the greatest firmness in 
lintaining what was true and right, with the greatest 
erality and gentleness in things indifferent or personal. 


" Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children ; and walk in love, as 
Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us." — Ephesians v. 1, 2, 

" Walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of 
their mind, having the understanding darkened, being 
alienated from the light of God through the ignorance 
that is in them because of the blindness of their heart; 
who being past feeling, have given themselves over 
unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greedi- 
ness. But ye have not so learned Christ, if so be that 
ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, 
as the truth is in Jesus; that ye put off concerning the 
former conversation the old man, which is corrupt accord- 
ing to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of 
your mind ; and that ye put on the new man, which after 
God is created in righteousness and true holiness." 

The idolaters were disposed by their natural depravity 
to be imitators of their false gods : and there was scarcely 
a vice or a crime, however base or shameful, which had not 
been brought into some degree of credit among the cor- 
rupted Gentiles of antiquity, as among the eastern pagans 
of our own times, through the vile enormities ascribed in 
heathen fables to their imaginary deities. The wicked and 
profligate worshippers could plead the example of their 
gods, and were their zealous imitators. Those especially 
who • had been initiated into the boasted mysteries of 
paganism, were deeply polluted by their evil fellowship, so 
that it was a shame even to speak of those things which 
were done of them in secret. 

Wicked men follow the example of their father the devil, 
and may be known accordingly as his offspring, for his 


works they do. Surely then the beloved children of God 
should imitate his excellence, and ought especially to walk 
in love with their brethren, neighbours, and even enemies, 
"as Christ hath loved them." 

The perfection and obligations of this example are 
infinite : so that there is no kind nor degree of self- 
denying, liberal, laborious, patient, or forgiving love, to 
which it will not direct the grateful believer. 

Christians are to follow or imitate God, as His beloved 
children, in all His moral perfections, especially in that 
love from which our salvation flows. This might be best 
seen and contemplated in the person of Christ, who having 
assumed human nature, gave Himself for us, etc. Not 
that the Father had pleasure in His sufferings on their 
own account, but His justice and holiness were glorified, 
and a way was opened for the equitable and honourable 
exercise of mercy. The Father shewed His love in not 
sparing His only Son ; and the Son in giving Himself for 
us. To be followers of God is to "walk in love, as Christ 
also hath loved us and given Himself for us." 

The subject of this text is the following or imitating of 
God, by which is meant not an occasional and intermitted 
effort ; but a practical, comprehensive, habitual system of 
action ; a plan of life. 

Let us consider 

I. The nature, 

II. Duty, 

III. Privilege, of such imitation of God as these words 
express and require. 

I. Consider the principles or nature of this imitation ; 
those things which are essential to it, and in which it must 
consist. In order to this it will be expedient to ascertain 

In what respect, — to what extent, — and in what method 
or manner we should imitate God. 

1. In what respect should God be imitated by us. 


Generally, — His imitable perfections. " Be ye therefore 
perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." 

Holiness. 1 Peter i. 15, 16. "But as He which hath 
called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversa- 
tion, because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy/' 
Leviticus xi. 44. " For I am the Lord your God ; ye shall 
therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy ; for I 
am holy." 

Kindness to evil and good : acknowledging the claims 
of misery as such, independent of worthiness. Matthew 
v. 45. " That ye may be the children of your Father 
which is in heaven : for He maketh His sun to rise on the 
evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on 
the unjust/' 

Mercifulness, forgiveness. Luke vi. 35, 36, "But 
love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for 
nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye 
shall be the children of the Highest : for He is kind unto 
the^ unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, 
as your Father also is merciful." Matthew xviii. 33, 
Shouldest not thou have had compassion on thy fellow- 
servant, even as I also had compassion on thee ? " 
" So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto 
you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his 
brother their trespasses." Colossians iii. 13, "Even as 
Christ forgave you, so also do ye/' " And above all these 
things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness." 
Our Saviour says, "learn of Me;" and the apostle Paul, 
" Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." 

Perfection in the sense of maturity, completeness, 
consistency, harmony. We are reminded of this by the 
quotation above, "Put on charity which is the bond of 
perfectness." " Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father 
in heaven is perfect." "That ye may stand perfect and 
complete in all the will of God." " That ye may be perfect 


and entire, lacking nothing : " and " I am the Almighty- 
God, walk before Me, and be thou perfect." Some seem to 
claim a right to have a capricious taste in morals ; to pick 
and choose among the virtues. Some admire dignity of 
character, and forget meekness and humility ; some admire 
fortitude, and overlook gentleness ; some admire generosity, 
and undervalue prudence and justice. Some professedly 
great admirers of justice, would think it being righteous 
overmuch to establish a rule of equity or rigour, which 
when applied to themselves could only condemn them. 
The fruits of the Spirit include every Christian grace and 
moral excellence. 

God should be imitated by us especially in love, as 
here required. "And walk in love, as Christ also hath 
loved us." This second part of the text is explanatory of 
the former. "Above all these things put on charity, which 
is the bond of perfectness." God is love. And love is 
that perfection of His which is most suitable and necessary 
to be imitated by us. " Hereby perceive we the love of 
God, because He laid down His life for us : and we ought 
to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath 
this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and 
shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how 
dwelleth the love of God in him ?" " My little children let 
us not love in word, neither in tongue ; but in deed and in 
truth.'" " He that loveth not knoweth not God ; for God 
is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward 
us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the 
world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, 
not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His 
Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God 
so loved us, we ought also to love one another." " A new 
commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another ; as 
i" have loved you, that ye also love one another." " This is 
my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have 


loved you." In these instances the love of God in Christ, 
the love of Christ to us, in its most express and emphatic 
manifestation, is that part of the divine perfection which 
we are especially called upon to imitate. In love, Christ 
gave, not merely extrinsic possessions, but Himself^- Him- 
self, not only as a friend, but as a sacrifice ; being moved 
by compassion to submit to the lowest self-abasement, to 
the most extreme self-denial, to the most dreadful anguish, 
to the most terrible and shameful death, for the benefit of 
those He pitied in their deserved misery. 

Compassion for the deservedly miserable, condescension 
to the mean and vile, readiness to forgive injuries, self- 
denial, enlarged beneficence, all in full perfection, were 
most illustriously manifested in that love which is here 
proposed as our pattern. 

And beneficence, as the effect of love — " given Himself 
for us " — when we give of our substance, let us humbly 
and gratefully remember Him who gave Himself. 
„ 2. To what extent should we be imitators of God in 
Christ, or how far ? 

As far as possible in the things already mentioned. 

There is no danger of our exceeding in respect to God's 
imitable perfections, and Christ's redeeming love. There 
is no kind nor degree of self-denying, liberal, laborious, 
patient, forgiving love, to which the divine example does 
not direct and animate the believer. 

Where imitation would be improper, bounds are set 
which we cannot pass. We cannot imitate divine power? 
authority, majesty, and judgment. We cannot thunder 
with a voice like God's, nor summon the lightnings " that 
they may go, and say, Here we are;" nor can we judge 
like Him, who said, " Woe unto you," etc. 

The extent of the example, and the degree of required 
resemblance we should strive and hope for, are expressively 
signified by the peculiar phrase, "walk in love" and "as 


Christ also hath loved us." Walk — a system, a course of 
action, successive, uniform, forward steps; "walk in love" 
as in our clothes. Love must be as the habit or clothing of 
our mind, or as the road in which we walk. As water is 
the element of fishes, and air of birds, so should love be 
the element or atmosphere of Christ's disciples. It was 
the element in which He moved. 

Many works, commonly esteemed good, appear very poor 
and defective when tried by this standard. 

3. In what method should we go about this imitation of 

All skilful imitators contemplate their model with 
earnest, admiring, persevering attention ; — fill their minds 
with it. They make attempts practically to do the like — in 
like manner ; after looking, they try. 

They compare and examine what they produce, and judge 
of it by the pattern. Having detected defects and differ- 
ences by such reference to their model, they correct or 
supply what is wrong or wanting, and try again. 

Let us thus, in the spirit of faith and love, contemplate 
our great exemplar; let us ask ourselves, "How would He 
have felt? Avhat would He have said or done in our place?" 

But the text suggests, and, indeed, prescribes a method, 
the only one in which we can succeed — as dear or beloved 

Children naturally resemble their parents, more or less, 
in person, voice, motion, etc., often in talents and disposi- 

Beloved children have, besides natural likeness, an 
amiable prop>cnsity to imitate their parents in tones and 
gestures, and afterwards in opinions and principles of 

Jesus appeals to this as a known law of human nature. 
" I speak that which I have seen with my Father, and ye 
do that which you have seen with your father. They 


answered and said unto Him, Abraham is our father. 
Jesus said unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye 
would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill 
me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have 
heard of God ; this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of 
your father. Then said they to Him, We be not born of 
fornication ; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said 
unto them, If God were your Father ye would love me : 
for I proceeded forth and came from God ; neither came I 
of myself, but He sent me. Why do ye not understand 
my speech ? even because ye cannot hear My word. Ye 
are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye 
will do. He was a murderer from the beginning and abode 
not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When 
he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own : for he is a liar, 
and the father of it." 

If therefore we would be imitators of God, the only 
effectual and practical method is to become His children, 
fey adoption and regeneration; seek to be born of the 
Spirit, and thus to become partakers of the divine nature. 

Then copy Him, as children their parents. 

Whatever further is wanting, ask of God, who giveth 
liberally, without upbraiding the petitioner; ask for the 
Holy Spirit ; use the means of grace ; strive to attain self- 
knowledge and self-government, walk by faith. 

If we would emulate the faith and holiness of apostles 
and martyrs, we must not so much copy them, as imitate 
their model, adopt their principle of imitation of God ; 
not be copies of a copy, or translators of a translation ; — go 
to the original ; go to the fountain from which they drank 
living waters. 

Yet we are to be followers of them as they are of 
Christ ; and their example is precious, often as an illustra- 
tion of Christian principle, and as an exemplification of 
what is possible by grace. It justifies those who are 


actuated by the mighty working principles of faith and love 
in attempting and expecting great things. 

II. Let us consider 

Our obligation thus to imitate God in Christ. 

1. It is plainly commanded in many passages. It is 
enjoined by the Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian dis- 
pensations. It is taught even by the example of idolaters. 

2. Can anything be more fit and proper than that we 
should imitate the most perfect model ? Many precepts 
and exhortations most reasonably urge us to imitate 
beauty, excellence, perfection. 

3. Christ's example is not only an instruction but an 
authority. He says, " I speak that which I have seen 
with my Father." This view is suggested by the observa- 
tion and appeal of the master in the parable to the cruel 
servant, " Shouldest thou not also have had compassion on 
thy fellow-servant, even as i" had pity on thee ? " The 
principle appealed to is that they who have needed and 
received mercy are especially bound to shew mercy; and 
that if we see mercy to be excellent when exercised 
towards ourselves, we should learn to go and do likewise. 
" If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your 
Father forgive your trespasses." When the insolvent 
servant said, " Have patience with me and I will pay thee 
all," he laid down a law of conduct for himself. What we 
ask God to do for us, we ought to be ready to do for others. 
"The measure ye mete shall be meted to you again." 
Christ laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down 
our lives for the brethren. 

4. Christ's love to us gives Him immediate claims on 
our gratitude, but we cannot recompense Him, we cannot 
minister to Him in His own person. He is neither 
accessible in bodily form nor needy — but He has trans- 
ferred or made over the debt to the poor and miserable, 
appointing them His receivers. " Inasmuch as ye have 


done it unto one oT the least of these ye have clone it unto 
me." " If ye love me, keep my commandments." 

5. Our conscience, our views of duty, our self-examina- 
tion should be regulated by this rule and obligation. By 
these let us search and try our ways. 

III. We are to consider the privilege of imitating God, 
— obvious from the transcendent elevation of the models 

1. To be like God in righteousness and true holiness, was 
the glorious dignity and high privilege of human nature 
before the fall. 

2. To tread in the steps of the great — to copy the dress, 
the looks, the language and behaviour of the admired, the 
illustrious, and the powerful, is not generally considered 
task-work. To resemble them, calls forth eager and ambi- 
tious effort, and immense voluntary sacrifice of time, ease 
and pleasure — the spirit and aim of fashion. 

We are here incited and animated by the truly noble- 
mmded, yet most self-abased Apostle of the Gentiles, to 
fashion our spirit and behaviour, not after the princes and 
grandees, and splendid menials of earthly courts, the 
potentates and conquerors of the world, — but after the 
spirit and conduct of the immortal King of kings, and 
Lord of lords. 

The labours of fashion are not prescribed by law, nor 
enforced by penalties ; they are stimulated by emulation. 

3. That it is a privilege is suggested by our being 
encouraged to follow God as beloved children ; it is one 
of the high and noble rights and privileges of divine 
parentage, it is of the very essence of spiritual grandeur 
that Christians should be like their Lord, and follow Him, 
not as slaves in the train of a conqueror, nor as abject 
imitators of royal caprices, — but as dear children. 

4. The Apostle John exults in this as one of the most 
certain and valuable privileges of the glory which is not 


yet seen, — that " when Christ who is our life shall appear, 
we shall be like Him." Christians are now godlike, and 
will be more so. 

5. That we might possess such a privilege, Christ has 
come down to us, descending to us in self-abasement, that 
we might ascend to Him in ennobling and glorious imita- 
tion. Those exertions of benevolence and generosity which 
on account of the low state of average practice, appear 
extraordinary and transcendent, are really the noble privi- 
leges, the honourable distinctions, as well as the duties, of 
those children of God who thus serve Him. 


" Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." 
- -COLOfeSIANS iii. 17. 

It is one of the surpassing excellencies of the holy Scrip- 
tures, that they contain a great number of short, plain, 
pithy precepts, which are so clear and weighty, so easily 
remembered and applied in practice, so distinct from each 
other, yet so comprehensive, that nothing less than divine 
wisdom can be deemed the adequate and the actual source 
of instruction so various, compendious and complete, which 
has been thus provided for our infirmity. 

The two great commandments concerning the love of 
God and our neighbour, the golden rule of equity which is 
founded upon and which explains the second of those 
commandments, the avowal in the prophetic Psalm, "I 
Jjave set the Lord always before me," the corresponding 
precept of Solomon, " In all thy ways acknowledge Him," 
the wise man's charge, " Be thou in the fear of the Lord all 
the day long/' the royal preacher's conclusion, "Fear God 
and keep His commandments/' the apostolic caution, 
" Abstain from all appearance of evil," and the Pentecostal 
summary, "Bepent, and be converted"; these, and many 
other Scripture precepts, are so closely connected with the 
chief doctrines and duties of revealed religion, that there 
is in each of them a blessed and glorious fulness, while 
they are easy to be understood, remembered and applied 
as distinct practical rules. 

The twenty-third verse, " Whatsoever ye do, do it 
heartily as to the Lord and not unto men," and a parallel 
passage in 1 Corinthians x. 31, "Whether therefore ye eat, 
or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God," 
and the text we have selected as the subject of our 


discourse, are passages of the same important class as 
those before noticed ; plain, weighty, practical and compre- 

It is proposed to consider the meaning, the extent, and 
the obligation of this part of the law of Christ. 

I. Let us endeavour to ascertain the meaning of this 
rule, which declares that Christians should always speak 
and act in the name of the Lord Jesus. 

The first question concerning the meaning of this 
injunction is, whether the letter or the spirit is chiefly to 
be received and obeyed ; whether we are, literally, to 
mention the name of Christ, on every occasion in speaking 
or acting, or whether we are not rather directed, by this 
precept, to something more spiritual, practical, and substan- 
tial, than merely taking Christ's name into our lips. 

1. In some instances the literal sense may be practically 
followed with propriety and advantage. It has probably 
been from a regard to the strict letter of this precept, that 
the practice or form has been so generally adopted of 
concluding prayers and thanksgivings with the expressions 
through Christ, or for Christ's sake, etc. This manner of 
concluding our devotional exercises is doubtless very 
proper ; and, as far as it goes, is literally according to the 
rule ; but even in these instances, we must carefully guard 
against losing the spirit in the letter ; and there is reason 
to think that the meaning is far deeper, that something 
more important than the respectful utterance of a sacred 
name is intended. 

2. For the several following reasons, we are not at 
liberty to interpret this text in a grossly literal sense. 

To do this would lead us to condemn some whom God 
does not condemn, even some of the holiest saints of all 
ages and churches. It has not been the practice of the 
wisest and best of those whose piety is most indubitable. 

It would be cmnparatively easy to keep the mere letter 


of the text, even though the spirit and design were most 
essentially contravened in practice. It has always been 
found easier to say, Lord, Lord, to bow at the name of 
Jesus, make the sign of the cross, make broad phylacteries, 
to say long prayers, than to keep the commandments with 
a believing and loving heart. 

Hypocrites and formalists will always exceed the most 
sincere in wordy and showy manifestations. Those whose 
piety or virtue is most superficial, as they bestow all their 
pains upon the surface or outside of religion, will be in 
outward show more elaborate, exact, and remarkable, than 
those whose aim is directed to solid excellence. Overdoing 
in the use of religious phraseology, is so far from being a 
mark of superior holiness, that it is rather a ground of 
godly jealousy. 

The attempt to carry the mere letter of the text univer- 
sally and incessantly into practice, would involve consi- 
derable danger of using vain repetitions, of taking Christ's 
name in vain. Sacred names should not be familiar as 
common words. Some of the greatest men in the general 
church of God, have been remarkable for the reverence 
they constantly manifested in mentioning the Divine 
Being by any of His titles. It is grating to the ears of an 
habitually serious person, when ungodly men lightly use 
the words, " thank God," in answering a question of com- 
mon civility Though not quite so bad as cursing and 
swearing, it is a breach of the third commandment. A 
worldly soul is not really thankful to God ; and the care- 
less profession of thankfulness is made in vain. I believe 
many of you will agree with me in disliking to hear even 
the name of the evil spirit taken in vain; not because we 
revere, but because we abhor that wicked one ; and there- 
fore we feel a harsh disagreement between the sentiment 
of solemn abhorrence and the language of light profaneness. 

Where the gross literal sense of this and similar precepts 


is chiefly regarded and adopted, the most vile and criminal 
things come to be done in the name of the Lord. Thus 
while the letter of the rule is observed, the spirit and 
intention are most effectually violated and opposed. 

Dr. Clarke says, " Could it ever be supposed that any 
person would begin a bad work in God's name ? Never- 
theless so it is. No people in the universe more strictly 
carry out the system of connecting the name of God with 
everything, than the Mahometans : for they never under- 
take any business, sit down to meat, or write a letter or a 
book, without prefacing all with ' In the name of the most 
merciful and compassionate God.' Not only books of 
devotion, but books" on the arts and sciences, tales and 
romances, books of poetry, and those on the elements of 
reading and spelling begin thus. Nay this form of words 
is prefixed to one of the most abominable productions that 
ever came from the pen of man." 

In this spirit the Inquisition with its horrible dungeons 
and tortures was called the Holy Office. And the savage 
and malicious curses of Popish excommunication were 
connected with all sacred names. 

3. Therefore something more spiritual, practical and 
substantial than merely taking Christ's name on our lips is 
here required. 

To do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, receiving Him 
as our Saviour and King, we must speak and act according 
to His revealed will, as manifested by precept, example, 
or permission. Let His will be our law and rule, and 
nothing against His will be said or done. 

From the principle of grateful, admiring, devoted love to 
Him as our motive. 

With an eye to His glory as our end. "We should 
always be actuated by the spirit of these sayings, "Let 
God be glorified. Let all the earth fear the Lord ; let all 
the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. Not 


unto us, Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give 

Eelying on His Spirit as our wisdom and strength, our 
effectual means of action. " Thou comest to me with a 
sword, and with a spear, and with a shield ; but I come to 
thee in the Name of the Lord of hosts." 

In dependence on His atoning merits and well-pleasing, 
powerful mediation for the acceptance of all we do. 
■' Giving thanks to God and the Father by Him." Praises 
as well as prayers must ascend to God through our 
Mediator. We are not warranted to say that even our 
thanks can be accepted without Him. 

In all these the deity of Christ must be acknowledged. 
Let every service be done with humble sincerity in such a 
manner that we trust, obey, and honour Christ ; and then 
we may hope that all shall be accepted through Him. 
But, if that prevailing name do not recommend us and 
our works, the divine purity will find something in every 
one of them which will justify their rejection and our 

II. The extent — as comprehensive as possible. 

All our words and actions are to be thus regulated ; 
even every thought must be brought into captivity to the 
obedience of Christ. 

Those which are professedly sacred, religious, and devo- 
tional. All duties. All that we are hound to do. 

Be a Christian in your common duties, prayers, alms, 
etc., not a mere moralist, or philosopher, or citizen, etc. 

David went against Goliah in the name of the Lord. 
In the xviii. Psalm, he defies all enemies in His name. 

2. All voluntary labour and enterprise : all lawful busi-< 
ness, all that we are permitted to do. Be a Christian in 
your business ; not a man of the world. It is foolish to 
say, as some frequently do, " What has religion to do with 
this? and what has religion to do with that?" Eevealed 


religion has to do with everything in the conduct of man ; 
either as commanding, permitting, forbidding, regulating, 
approving or condemning. 

All lawful and proper words and acts may, and should 
be, in the name of the Lord Jesus — as the labour of our 
honest callings — the commencement of any right under- 
taking ; satisfying of our natural and lawful appetites and 
wants within the limits of temperance. 

Christians do eat and drink in His name by asking a 
blessing before meat : and a Christian man need not be 
ashamed to ask the blessing of God on his tillage, or his 
flock, or his garden, or his industry in any lawful calling, 
merchandise or profession. 

A Christian father chooses a situation or a calling for 
his son in the name of the Lord Jesus, when he enquires 
and deliberates and determines with reference to moral and 
spiritual advantages or disadvantages. 

The law of Christ, not the custom of trade, guides a 
Christian in his commercial transactions. 

It is said that at one time there were great merchants in 
the city of London, who began every page of their journal 
in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy 
Ghost. If anything unjust or inequitable were entered 
below on the same pages, how awfully, shamefully glaring, 
how criminally aggravated would the iniquity appear ! 
But though you do not put such a heading to the pages of 
your account books, the eye of Father, Son, and Holy 
Ghost is on every line of every page, and as Christians 
you are bound in consistency to serve Christ in every 

3. All endurance. Christian resignation ; not philosophic 
patience, or insensibility. 

4. All enjoyment. The Christian is to he a Christian in 
his pleasures, to have Christian delights and recreations — 
and none else. There are many things pleaded for as 


innocent, by sinners, on which they would perceive it to be 
ridiculously wrong to ask God's blessing : the race, cards, 
theatre, etc. 

There are many things of a seemingly doubtful, disput- 
able nature — indulgences and deviations for which inge- 
nious apologies are made, and which are involved in a mist 
of sophistry — which start up in their proper shape when 
touched by this Ithuriel's spear. "Singing those songs, or 
partaking of those diversions which cannot be used in the 
name, of the Lord Jesus." Be Christians in all things on 
all occasions. 

What cannot be done in Christ's name is unfit for His 
disciples to do at all. 

III. Obligation 

1. This is a plain command. 

2. Gratitude should prompt our obedience. 

" My soul, through my Redeemer's care, 
Saved from the second death I feel, 
My eyes from tears of dark despair, 
My feet from falling into hell. " 

Those who adopt that verse will not deny the next. 

" Wherefore to Him my feet shall run ; 
My eyes on His perfections gaze ; 
My soul shall live for God alone ; 
And all within me shout His praise." 

3. Affectionate loyalty. 

In a monarchy, all temporal authority, from the highest 
judge to a common constable, is exercised in the king's or 
queen's name. 

Under Christ's kingdom, what cannot be done in His 
name, if done at all, is either treacherously or rebelliously 
done in His despite, and for the advantage of His enemies. 

4. Justice — we belong to Him as our Maker, Preserver, 
Eansomer — we are not our own, we "are bought with a 


price : therefore glorify God in your body, and in your 
spirit, which are God's." 

5. Reverence for His holy presence and awful know- 
ledge of us and our conduct — everything is done in His 
presence ; if we sin, it is before His face. " Hell and 
destruction are before the Lord : how much more then the 
hearts of the children of men ?" 

6. Interest — If we confess Him, He will confess us. 
If we deny Him, He will deny us. He will be our judge, 
to Him we must give account, and He requires no less 
than that we do all in His name. 

Christ will try us and judge us by this rule. "We 
shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ." 
Where then shall the ungodly and the sinner appear ? 

Try ^ourselves by this — and see how many are your 
sins. Who will not plead guilty ? 

If we lack wisdom, ask of Him " who giveth to all men 
liberally and upbraideth not." 

Understand and remember that it is not possible to do 
this in an unconverted state, or in a pharisaic spirit. 

Be reconciled to God ; receive His Holy Spirit ; seek 
perfect love ; and it will become natural to the " new 
creature " in Christ to walk by this rule. 

When we greatly respect and love our fellow-creatures, 
it is not difficult, but natural and easy to mingle thoughts 
and feelings, relating to the objects of affection, with all 
our business, care and pleasure. 


" The world passeth away, and the lust thereof ; but he that doeth the will 
of God abideth for ever."— 1 John ii. 17. 

It appears from internal evidence which the Scriptures 
abundantly contain, that the sacred writers had such 
comprehensive and plenteous inspiration, as gave them 
sufficient knowledge of the truth to be recorded, and 
.secured them from all error in fact or doctrines. It also 
appears that while this inspiration directed and elevated 
their faculties, giving a sagacity and energy not their 
own, — it nevertheless did not supersede or destroy their 
individual character, but allowed this to act freely within 
the wide range consistent with wisdom and holiness : not 
so much controlling, as enabling and enlightening them 
*like the young man at Dothan when his eyes were opened. 
So that Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon, and the prophets ; 
Peter, James, John, and Paul are, in fact, strikingly distinct 
from each other, in style and manner, in the personal 
characteristics and peculiar genius of their writings. They 
write with the naturalness and raciness of vigorous and 
free minds ; yet as to the matter and spirit of their pages, 
they are all the penmen of the one Author of the Scrip- 
tures, — the Holy Spirit. 

Even among the inspired writers, the Apostle John is 
remarkable for the plain, easy, quiet way in which he 
expresses the noblest sentiments ; gives the most impor- 
tant information on matters of fact and doctrine ; or 
describes those wonderful visions in which he beheld a 
majestic representation of the vast social changes and 
grand scenes of pro video tial control, extending from his 
own time to the end of the world. 


In the writings of this Apostle there is an entire absence 
of the spirit of pomp and display. Full of his inspired 
subject and of his Divine Master, full of that spirit of love 
which he so often recommends, — too full of these elements 
of true greatness to be concerned about any petty orna- 
ments of speech, — it is a common thing with him to 
present the grandest subjects in the briefest and plainest 

But those who are accustomed to read and admire more 
ostentatious writers, are in some danger of too slightly 
passing over various passages in which, with calm dignity, 
he speaks of the deep things of God, or denounces the 
world, and asserts the Christian's victory over it, like a 
man so much at home among great things, as to survey 
them with settled and serene feelings, and to allude to 
them as familiar subjects of his contemplation. 

The text is an instance of the easy and simple manner 
in which he sets before us views and sentiments of tran- 
scendent importance and sublimity. 

In tins passage we may usefully consider 

The compared subjects. 

Their contrasted destinies. 

The suggested instruction, 

I. The compared subjects. 

The world and the lust thereof are — not indeed expressly 
and formally, but substantially and practically — placed in 
comparison with any one individual who doeth the will 
of God. 

At the first view such a comparison seems very unequal 
and startling — the world with an individual — the vast, 
unwieldy, populous globe and all it contains with a person ! 
Yet not inadvertently, not by a slip of the pen ; but in 
sober earnest, with full recollection and presence of mind, 
the Apostle does place these unequal and dissimilar 


objects, side by. side before us ; and with an obvious 
intention of leading us to ponder and balance them in 
our thoughts. 

Let us examine them separately that we may compare 
them — see what they are, and then weigh them against 
each other. 

First, the world and the lust thereof. 

1. The world. This expression has various significations 
in the sacred writings, and in this instance it may be 
taken with the utmost latitude, as comprising them all. 

Primarily it means — the 

Natural world — the earth or the greater universe. 

Psalm 1. " The world is mine and the fulness thereof/' 
Psalm xc. " Or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the 

The natural world includes — 

The ocean, the continents and islands, the lofty moun- 
tains, the deep valleys, the wide-spread plains, the rivers, 
fields and forests, the treasures of earth's secret caves, and 
the various productions of its fruitful surface — the world 
vast, grand, beautiful, diversified, and wonderful as the 
Creator has made it. 

In a secondary sense, it signifies 

The Political world — the world considered as an 
assemblage of territories. There went out a decree from 
Csesar Augustus that all the vjorld should be taxed. The 
devil, taking Jesus up into an high mountain, "shewed 
unto Him all the kingdoms of the vjorld in a moment 
of time." The prophet Agabus "signified by the Spirit 
that there should be great dearth throughout all the world." 

In this sense the world is viewed as the scene of man's 
power, authority, and enterprise — peace and war — of 
conquest and government — of possession, dominion, culti- 
vation and commerce — comprising a multitude of states, 


kingdoms, and empires — with the complicated systems of 
powers and influences, laws and manners, opinions and 
languages — by which nations are distinguished and divided 
from each other, and severally compacted and upheld 
within themselves. 

Thirdly. Sometimes, by an easy and natural figure of 
speech, as the house is put for the family, the world — 
viewed as habitable or inhabited — is used to signify the 
gross population — the inhabitants of the world — the 
human race. " Let all the inhabitants of the world stand 
in awe of Him." It was said of Jesus, "the world is 
gone after Him." 1 John, "and not for ours only, but 
also for the sins of the whole ivorld." The term includes 
all mankind, all who inherit or inhabit, who possess, 
occupy, or enjoy the world. 

Fourthly. Sometimes the world in Scripture means the 
wicked majority — the ungodly multitude. David says, 
" men of the world, which have their portion in this life." 
St. John says, " We know that we are the sons of God, 
and the whole world lieth in wickedness." " Greater is He 
that is in you than he that is in the world. They are of 
the world : therefore they speak of the world, and the 
world heareth them." Christ says, " Marvel not, my 
brethren, if the world hate you." " 0, righteous Father, 
the world hath not known Thee." 

Fifthly. Sometimes the world is spoken of as an enemy ; 
and then, as we have had occasion to shew under another 
text, it signifies any or all of the external sources of tempta- 
tion. Thus in 1 John v. 4, 5, " For whatsoever is born of 
God, overcometh the world ; and this is the victory that 
overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that 
overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is 
the Son of God?" In the gospel of St. John xvi. 33, 
" In the world ye shall have tribulation ; but be of good 


cheer, I have overcome the world/' And in xvi. 17, "The 
world hath hated "them, because they are not of the world, 
even as I am not of the world." 

And the lust thereof. 

Here, by a natural and easy figure, the desire is put for 
the objects of desire — the Lust thereof for those things in 
the world that are lusted after — the objects of covetous or 
voluptuous desire, of admiration or ambition — all temporal 
greatness, even royal power and authority, all worldly 
riches, with all they can command or bestow ; all earthly 
pleasures, whether gross or refined, whether those of the 
appetites, fancy, or intellect ; all human honours, not 
excluding the so-called immortality of endless and univer- 
sal fame among men ; all the combinations of these which 
excite the ardour and animate the hopes of men in all 
times and countries. 

The world and the lust thereof- — is the world in its most 
dazzling and alluring, enchanting form — with all its attri- 
butes and advantages of vastness, splendour, beauty, 
variety, and multitude; the world in its most admired 
state, in its proudest circumstances ; not merely such as it 
intrinsically is, but such as it appears to the covetous, the 
voluptuous, the gay, the proud, and the mighty. The 
world, with all its ornaments and fascinations, is placed by 
the side of an individual. 

2. He that doeth the will of God. 

In considering the character of such a one, it will be 
proper to separate what is essential from what may be 

What is essential. We have now to call in our attention, 
to contract our thoughts from the scenes of power and 
grandeur, from the gay, restless, haughty world, to an 
object distinct, retired, solitary; a person who doeth the 
will of God — who must at the beginning of his religious 


:ourse perceive and confess himself, a needy, helpless, 
guilty sinner. 
The will of God- 
Is, that sinners repent, that penitents come to Christ, 
that believers walk by faith, in reverent love ; follow peace 
and holiness, according to the commandments of Christ ; 
practise all righteousness ; deny themselves ; take up the 
cross ; endure to the end. 

These great outlines of the will of God, are those on 
which we have "line upon line, precept upon precept.'' 
All true Christians have these, as men of all nations and 
complexions, have the features and members of a man. 

What is accidental. The person who doeth the will of 
God, may be rich, noble, or royal ; or placed by genius or 
by events on the pinnacle of society, — may belong to the 
middle class, — may be a plain labourer, a smith, a miner, a 
ploughman, a weaver, a pauper, a slave — a solitary and 
neglected sufferer. The world may not know their true 
character, the church may not clearly and thoroughly 
know and estimate them. 

They may not be saints of the world. The individual 
may be one of an ungodly family, whose foes are of his 
own household ; his strength may be that of a bruised 
reed ; his health and life frail and weak, as the fresh, green, 
tender stalk of an annual plant in spring. His value may 
be unsuspected, his motives and character misunderstood. 
He may be counted by men among the foolish and weak 
things of the world, things that are not. He may be one 
who has the root of the matter with some grievous and 
displeasing influences of judgment, disposition or manners. 
Yet such a one, with all these infirmities, the Apostle 
dares to place by the side of the world, with its 
treasures, palaces, and armies, its grandeur, pomp, power, 
and multitude. 


Many such individuals may be found in your own town 
by those who really seek for them. 

Any one of these the Apostle would fearlessly place by 
the side of the world and the lust thereof. 

II. Their contrasted destinies. 

Their true character and value are intimated and 
discovered by the duration God has assigned to them 

The world passeth — the Christian abideth. 

The world passeth. The " great globe itself " is fulfil- 
ing its appointed periods, and hasting to an end — the end 
of all things, which is at hand. 

The territories of the globe are changing their masters, 
their forms of government, their boundaries. The artificial 
systems of society, by which nations and empires are held 
together are passing away. Many have been — many will 
be dissolved while the universe remains. The Eoman 
world, that then was, like the world that was before Noah, 
has passed. The state of the political world changes 
while we gaze at it, as do the tints and outlines of the 

The inhabitants are passing away, generations, like the 
leaves of a summer in autumn. 

The ungodly are passing away. " They are cut down as 
the grass, and wither as the green herb." " They are like 
the chaff which the wind driveth away." 

The world as an enemy is overcome and will be at length 
subdued, so that " the kingdoms of this world shall become 
the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ." 

The world and the lust thereof are now passing. 

The time is foreknown in the counsels of Him that 
sitteth upon the throne — when 

" The cloud-capt towers ; the gorgeous palaces ; the 
solemn temples ; yea, even the great globe itself, and all 



which it inherit, shall dissolve; and, like the baseless 
fabric of a vision, leave not a wreck behind." 

2. The Christian abideth — in being, in safety, in the 
favour of God; and, however poor or afflicted, in true 
felicity. Through the season of calamity, at the hour of 
death, at the day of judgment, to all eternity. 

III. The suggested instruction. 

Much is suggested. 

1. For the direction of our esteem and affection. 

Let us conform our sentiments to the mind of God, let 
us not honour what He despises, nor despise what He 
honours. What do we most admire ? the world, or a man 
of God ? 

2. For our practical guidance in choosing our own 

We must either perish with the condemned thing — 
the world; or each of us be one of those who do the 
will of God, and abide for ever. 

There is no medium. Men never deceive themselves 
more than when they imagine a middle class between 
men of God and men of the world — or think it possible 
to serve God and mammon. 

In order to do the will of God we must be Christians 
indeed. Christian duties cannot be performed by any 
who are not Christians. " If any man have not the spirit 
of Christ, he is none of His." Have we begun, on this 
plan, to do His will ? 

3. For the consolation and encouragement of good men. 


" And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God."— Revelation 
xx. 12. 

This is one of the most intensely sublime statements in 
the sacred writings. It may be doubted whether the 
famous passage in Genesis, " And God said, Let there be 
light, and there was light," — should be reckoned fully 
equal to it in grandeur. Moses and John, the first and 
last penmen of the Holy Scriptures, excel in having 
presented scenes of the most astonishing greatness, in the 
fewest and plainest words. The creation of light, as stated 
by Moses, was the beginning of time, when the evening 
and the morning were the first day: the end of time will be 
what John's vision represented, — the judgment of the 
iiuman race at the last day. In each instance the mere 
words of the statement scarcely occupy our attention at 
all. Like the clear colourless glasses of a good telescope, 
the words give a near and amazing view of remote 
existences, without obtruding themselves on our notice. 
We see grand and interesting objects wonderfully brought 
from afar, but the very perfection of the transparent 
medium, prevents itself from being regarded. 

On the whole, perhaps, the difference of the subjects has 
given John the superiority. His words are as few as those of 
Moses, in our English Bible; and without being inferior in 
the unity or the vastness of his subject, he crowds the 
mind of his reader with a multitude of grand ideas, which 
are connected with the most powerful and overwhelming 
emotions. He not only rouses and elevates the mind as 
much as Moses does; — but his few words, like a powerful 
spell, lead all the faculties of the soul, with conscience at 


their head, to take a rapid, anxious glance through all the 
past and all the future, over the whole human race, in all 
ages, and countries, over the dark dominions of death, into 
the deep recollections and recesses of our own hearts and 
lives, into the unfathomable counsels of Him who sits 
upon the throne, and into the abyss of the coming 

Next to his Divine Master, John may be considered the 
greatest of the New Testament prophets : — as such he 
records many wonderful visions of the future, and causes 
mysterious and astonishing scenes of glory and terror to 
pass before the eye of our mind. While we attend to his 
plain and solemn representations, our thoughts and feelings 
are the more powerfully impressed, because we perceive 
that we are reading, not a well-described scene of imagina- 
tion, but a plain, unadorned account of what he beheld, 
and what shall be hereafter. 

There are none of his marvellous visions of which we 
have a more clear and affecting apprehension, than that 
which is expressed in these words, " I saw the dead, small 
and great, stand before God." He speaks in the past 
tense. By the light of inspiration he was enabled to 
perceive spiritual things as though they were material and 
visible ; and future things as actually present, passing, or 
past. Therefore, like his Lord, he calls things that are not, 
as though they were; and says "I saw" when speaking 
of events, which, after so many centuries, are yet to come. 
The text boldly shadows forth the chief parts of the 
astonishing picture which the last paragraph of the 
chapter sets before us. 

The two parts which may naturally and easily include 
all the circumstances that properly belong to the subject, 
are — 

I. The Assembly John saw — the dead, small and great 


II. The Situation in which he saw them — standing 
before God. 

I. The Assembly. 

1. John saw the same multitude we must see. God 
could as easily give an exact and complete, as an imperfect 
view of the last day 

2. Those whom he saw as the dead, were first the living. 
The expression includes all that have lived in all ages 
— Antediluvians, Patriarchs, and their contemporaries; 
Egyptians, Philistines, Assyrians, Moabites, Ammonites, 
Edomites, Medes, Persians, Grecians, Eomans, Barbarians, 
Scythians ; — the obscure millions of the dark ages, and of 
America while undiscovered; Jews, Christians, Turks, 
Pagans ; ourselves and our contemporaries, and those 
future generations who will, perhaps, call us ancients ; all 
individuals of all nations, of every name, type and colour, 
all were living probationers. 

3. Except the few who may be alive at the last day, the 
assembly consisted of the dead; those who shall have 
passed through the pangs of departure, — in infancy, youth, 
maturity, or age, — by all the various forms of dissolution. 

4. Small and great ; infants and giants, poor and rich, 
mean and noble, slave and master, bond and free, the 
heroes of history and myriads without a name ; the 
oppressors and the benefactors of mankind, — all. What 
a multitude !. To see one of our deceased relatives would 
be terrible ; but we shall there behold all the dead. 

5. He saw the dead, as living, standing — the raised 

Previous to beholding them assembled, though it is 
stated in inverted order, he saw the sea give up her dead. 
He saw the disembodied spirits hastening from hades, the 
spiritual world ; and the bodies rising from millions of 
opening graves, from fields of battle, and from buried 


He saw the tremendous re-animation. 

When that he saw in vision shall be realised, a trumpet 
will sound. The living will hear and be changed. The 
dead will hear in the caverns of the earth, and in the 
depths of the ocean, and will rise ; and the living will see 
the dead rise. What a prospect ! John has the advan- 
tage in point of time ; but we shall see what he saw 

" Where are the dead ? Tn heaven or hell 
Their disembodied spirits dwell ; 
Their perished forms in bonds of clay 
Reserv'd until the judgment day." 

Who are the dead ? The sons of time 
In every age and state and clime ; 
Renown'd, dishonour'd, or forgot, 
The place that knew them, knows them not. 

Where are the living ? On the ground 
Where prayer is heard and mercy found ; 
There in the compass of a span, 
The mortal makes the immortal man. 

Who are the living ? They, whose breath 
Draws every moment nigh to death ; 
Of endless bliss or woe the heirs ; 
O what an awful choice is theirs ! 

Then timely warned, let us begin 
To follow Christ and flee from sin, 
Daily grow up in Him our Head ; 
Lord of the living and the dead. 

II. The situation. 

1. Before God; before Him, described in the preceding 
verse, as seen sitting on the great white throne, from 
whose appearing heaven and earth fled away God 
enthroned in visible majesty will be the greatest object 

Many would gladly flee with the vanishing earth and 
heavens — where should they flee ? where should they hide 
from His face, and from the wrath of the Lamb, when the 


great day of His wrath is come ? Earth and heaven flee, 
but the dead stay and stand. 

2. They stand : standing is the posture of suspense and 
attendance. They stand because they wait to receive 
judgment according to their works. A vast multitude 
which no man can number. 

The books are opened — divine remembrance and con- 
science ; the records of laiv, grace, and works, — of life. 

As the judgment proceeds, the assembly gradually 
divides into three parties — before, right, left. 

Fix your attention on the last man. 

Examine the countenances of those on the right, and 
those on the left. 

Sentence is pronounced : it is heard through all that 
mighty host: — "These shall go away into everlasting 
punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." 

It is executed, like the march of morning. 

The gates of hell are shut. Heaven opens, the saints 
enter. All is over. 

A time in your existence will arrive, when all these 
things will be past; when you may say with our poet 
Montgomery — - 

"The days and years of time are fled, 

Sun, moon, and stars have shone their last ; 
The earth and sea gave up their dead, 
Then vanished, at th' Archangel's blast ; 
All secret things have been reveal'd, 
Judgment is pass'd, the sentence seal'd, 
And man, to all eternity, 
What he is now, henceforth must be. 

From Adam to his youngest heir, 

Not one escaped that muster-roll, 
Each, as if he alone were there, 
Stood up, and won or lost his soul ; 
Some from the Judge's presence go 
Down into everlasting woe : 
Vengeance hath barr'd the gates of hell, — 
The scenes within no tongue can tell. 


Bit lo, far off the righteous pass 

To glory from the King's right hand ; 
In silence, on the sea of glass, 
Heaven's numbers, without number stand ; 
While He who bore the cross lays down 
The priestly robe and victor crown, 
The mediatorial reign complete, 
All things are put beneath His feet. 

Then every eye in Him shall see, 

(While thrones and powers before Him fall,) 
The fulness of the Deity, 

Where God Himself is all in all ; 
how eternity shall ring 
With the first note the ransom'd sing ! 
While in that strain all voices blend 
Which, once begun, shall never end. 

In that unutterable song 

Shall I employ immortal breath ? 
Or with the wicked borne along, 
For ever die ' the second death ? ' 
Jesus, my life my light Thou art, 
Thy word is in my mouth, my heart ; 
Lord, I believe, — my spirit save 
From sinking lower than the grave." 

You are yet among the living, enjoying the privileges 
and opportunities of probation. Are you living to Christ 
or to the world ? 

You will soon be the dead — the raised — standing before 

You may yet choose how and where you will then 
stand ; but you must not delay to choose : the privilege 
of choice is passing away. 

As soon as you enter the dominions of death, the event 
is decided. 

Would you be the Lord's in that great day, you must 
seek Him now. "Wash you, make you clean, put away 
the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease 
to do evil ; learn to do well." " Seek ye the Lord while 
He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near." 


"Let the wicked forsake bis way, and the unrighteous 
man his thoughts ; and let him return unto the Lord, 
and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, 
for He will abundantly pardon." Prepare the way of 
the Lord. Repent and believe the G-ospel. Take Christ's 
joke upon you, and learn of Him, for He is meek and 
lowly of heart ; and ye shall find rest for your souls. 


" Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might ; for there is no 
work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou 
goest." — Ecclesiastes ix. 10. 

This is one of the most impressive of many inspired 
admonitions, which warn us of the approaching end of all 
spiritual opportunities ; and urge the supreme necessity 
of a timely and effectual use of the means of grace and 
salvation. The text is one of those scriptures which are 
promptly recollected by serious minds, when they have 
the most solemn views of the importance of spiritual 
diligence. It is naturally associated with such monitory 
sentences as, "Prepare to meet thy God;" "Seek ye the 
Lord while He may be found;" "Work out your own 
salvation, with fear and trembling;" "The night cometh, 
when no man can work;" and with such prayers as, "So 
teach us to number our days, that we may apply our 
hearts unto wisdom;" "0 spare me, that I may recover 
strength, before I go hence, and be no more." 

But, though the obvious import of this passage has 
appeared, to common readers, to entitle it to a place among 
the most weighty of inspired exhortations, unnecessary 
doubts have been suggested by the rash conjectures and 
speculative refinements of bold theorists ; men who are 
often more ready to judge of the letter and spirit of 
Scripture by their own pre-conceived and systematized 
opinions, than to judge of the soundness of their opinions 
by the decisions of divine revelation. In their specula- 
tions and hypotheses, they have invented unprofitable 
subtleties, and created needless difficulties, relative to 
these precious words of inspired wisdom. The questions 
which haye thus been raised, would scarcely have been 


thought of by readers possessing a wise simplicity of 
mind ; but as they have been suggested, it is expedient to 
consider, and as far as possible, to determine them, in 
order to remove the hinderances to a free and full use of 
this important passage, as an inspired admonition. 
It is therefore proposed, 

I. To show that, as the inspired word of Solomon, the 
text is a proper ground of instruction and exhortation. 

II. To consider the matter, manner, and motives of the 
course of action which the text enjoins. 

These two distinct views of the passage will be pre- 
sented to the reader in two sermons. 

In this sermon, it is proposed to show that, as the 
inspired word of Solomon, the text is a proper ground of 
instruction and exhortation. 

It has been questioned whether Solomon was the writer 
of this book ; whether in this verse, and some others, the 
inspired writer speaks in his own person, or introduces the 
ramarks of an unbelieving objector ; and whether the 
obvious meaning of the text is consistent with other 
parts of the book, and with the general doctrine of the 

1. An humble attempt will be made to show that 
Solomon was the author of Ecclesiastes. 

Writers who in other instances have shown a hazardous 
disposition to build aspiring and expanding superstruc- 
tures, on narrow and shallow foundations, like the old, 
half-timbered houses, which, by means of projecting beams, 
were made wider at each successive storey, from the 
ground, upwards, till the highest rooms fearfully overhung 
the street ; writers who have boldly decided concerning 
scriptural facts, dates, and doctrines, on the frail evidence 
of obscure and doubtful etymologies, have also denied the 
title of Solomon to be considered the author of Ecclesi- 
astes, on the ground that the Hebrew of the original is 


mixed with Chaldaisms and Syriasms, and contains some 
foreign words. 

But before the captivity, the time of Solomon was that, 
above all others, in which the Jews had the most extensive 
intercourse with foreigners. Syria, subdued by David, was 
a part of Solomon's dominions. Among the members of 
his household were seven hundred princesses, his wives, 
who were mostly the daughters of Gentile kings, his 
tributaries or allies. Numerous foreign ambassadors, and 
potentates in their own persons, visited Jerusalem on his 
account. " There came of all people to hear the wisdom 
of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard 
of his wisdom." (1 Kings iv. 34.) "And all the kings of 
the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his 
wisdom, that God bad put in his heart. And they 
brought every man his present, vessels of silver, and 
vessels of gold, and raiment, harness, and spices, horses, 
and mules, a rate year by year." (2 Chronicles ix, 23, 24.) 
" And he reigned over all the kings from the river 
(Euphrates) even unto the land of the Philistines, and to 
the border of Egypt." (Verse 2G.) It appears from these 
historical books, that the foreign commerce, as well as the 
dominion, of the Jews was more extensive in Solomon's 
reign, than at any subsequent period of the kingdom. 
And it is surely not very extraordinary that foreign wives, 
foreign princesses, foreign commerce, and a continued 
influx of foreigners of rank, who came to converse with 
Solomon, should have some influence on the language of 
that age ; or that the effect should be most manifest in the 
writings of the monarch himself, especially in his old age, 
after he had so long been accustomed and familiarized to 
conversation and transactions with foreigners, and so much 
exercised in the government of foreign territories. 

From the time of Solomon to the captivity, the 
dominion, the commerce, and the foreign affairs and 


intercourse, of the kings and people of Judah, were very 
contracted ; and it was likely that, during this long period, 
the language, both as spoken and written, should again 
become more strictly national, and more pure from the 
mixture of foreign words and phrases. 

The circumstances mentioned in this book, which agree 
with Solomon's history, and with his only, are so many, 
and so remarkable, that nothing appears wanting but the 
mere mention of his name, in the book itself, to place the 
fact of his being the writer beyond the possibility of doubt. 

The writer himself says, that he was the son of David, 
that he was king over Israel, in Jerusalem; which no 
prince of David's line was after Solomon. Solomon's 
successors were kings of Judah, but not of Israel. The 
writer says that he gave his " heart to seek and to search 
out, by wisdom, concerning all things that are done under 
heaven;" and, certainly, no prince of his race was so 
remarkable as Solomon for setting the highest value on 
wisdom. The Preacher says, that when he set out in 
pursuit of that wisdom, one of his encouragements was, 
the grandeur of his condition, which corresponds fully 
with Solomon's history ; for, in comparison with his 
successors, he was a king of kings; and in wealth, pro- 
bably, superior to all the kings who ever reigned in Judea 
or elsewhere. The Preacher says, he had more wisdom 
than all that had been before him in Jerusalem; which no 
man after Solomon could have said, without vain and 
ridiculous falsehood. This writer says, that he hated all 
his labours, notwithstanding the buoyant spirit with which 
he had planned and executed them, and the distinguished 
success of all his undertakings, because he must leave 
them to a successor who might be a fool; which well 
agrees with the obvious circumstance, that Solomon could 
not be ignorant of the mental weakness of his son and 
successor Eehoboam. who was one vear old when Solomon 


began his reign of forty years. In the fourth chapter, the 
writer remarks, with evident mortification, on the inclina- 
tion of his subjects to flatter and follow the heir-apparent, 
in the old age of the reigning sovereign. He says there 
was no end of all the people who acted thus; and, as 
Solomon might well foresee, he predicts that "they also 
that come after shall not rejoice in him." From Eeho- 
boam's want of judgment and prudence, as well as from 
the threatened partition of the kingdom, Solomon might 
easily and truly anticipate, that the multitudes who would 
hail the accession of the new sovereign, would find cause 
to deplore their mistake. From his own personal experi- 
ence, the writer complains of the superlative deceitfulness 
and mischief of female blandishments; and immediately 
afterwards declares, that, among a thousand women he had 
not found one who was what women ought to be : it can 
hardly be necessary to point out that this agrees most 
completely with the case of Solomon, who had, as wives 
and concubines, one thousand women, and who was 
seduced by his foreign wives to that great folly and crime, 
that shameful indelible blot of his life and reign, the 
building of idol-temples. 

The title of Preacher, which the writer assumes, and his 
testimony that, " because the Preacher was wise, he still 
taught the people knowledge ; yea, he gave good heed, and 
sought out, and set in order many proverbs " : these are 
circumstances which fully correspond with the case of him 
who, besides numbers of his own subjects, had kings and 
ambassadors from distant nations, for auditors of his wise 
discourses ; who was wiser than all men ; and who is the 
acknowledged author of the only collection of inspired 

In addition to these numerous points of correspondence 
between the confessions of the Preacher, and the history of 
Solomon, it will not be irrelevant to observe, that he is the 


only known individual in whom were combined all those 
advantages of transcendent power, wealth, and wisdom, 
which are mentioned, in the beginning of Ecclesiastes, as 
the chief concurrent qualifications and encouragements for 
prosecuting that great inquiry, which the writer declares 
to have been his principal and favourite pursuit. 

Between these remarkable circumstances of the Preacher 
and Solomon s eminent pursuits and endowments, there is 
a full and striking agreement. That chapter in the second 
book of Chronicles, which mentions the visit of the queen 
of Sheba, affords sufficient intimations of a gorgeous profu- 
sion, a voluptuous refinement, and a studied variety of 
magnificence, in Solomon's noble buildings, the furniture 
and provision of his palaces, his splendid court of attending 
ministers, his ivory throne with ornaments of gold, his 
guard with golden shields, the rich and rare articles of his 
foreign commerce, his numerous chariots and horsemen, 
his spices and precious stones, his harps and psalteries of 
foreign wood for the musicians ; such a union of boundless 
resources, with curious inventive variety of luxurious 
splendour, as fully corresponds with the Preacher's descrip- 
tions, in the second chapter, of his vast and varied posses- 
sions and treasures, and his diversified experiments on all 
accessible means of enjoyment. The same chapter of the 
Chronicles ascribes to Solomon, that superiority of judg- 
ment, which the Preacher claims for himself, as the light 
by which he conducted and concluded his great moral and 
practical investigation. And though the personal history 
of Solomon does not record his confessions of the mortify- 
ing, general result of his enquiries after worldly happiness, 
the conclusions stated by the Preacher are such as Solomon, 
above all men, was qualified to affirm. "So I was great, 
and increased more than all that were before me in 
Jerusalem : also my wisdom remained with me. And 
whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I 


withheld not my heart from any joy ; for my heart rejoiced 
in all my labour : and this was my portion of all my 
labour. Then I looked on all the works that my hands 
had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do : 
and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and 
there was no profit under the sun." From this mass of 
circumstantial and internal evidence, it is surely not 
unreasonable to infer that the book of Ecclesiastes was 
written by Solomon. 

2. It is proposed to show that, in the text, the Preacher 
expresses his own meaning. 

In some parts of this book, there are expressions, which, 
viewed by themselves, without taking the subject, context, 
and scope, as explanatory of the phraseology employed, 
have appeared so startling to some readers, that they have 
thought the writer could not intend such passages to be 
received as his own observations, but rather as the remarks 
of an unbelieving objector ; and those who have adopted 
this theory, have generally applied it to the paragraph 
which contains the text, and to the text itself; the text 
being involved in the condemnation, because of its appear- 
ing in what was deemed bad company. 

But this theory is unsupported by evidence. There is 
nothing for it but the obscurity of some of the passages it 
pretends to clear, the merely conjectural opinion of those 
who recommend it, and the convenience it affords them, by 
apparently invalidating the testimonies in this book against 
their theories on other subjects. On referring to Mr. Ben- 
son's Commentary on Ecclesiastes, it will be found that, 
though in his preliminary observations, that excellent com- 
mentator mentions with some respect the hypothesis, that 
a cavilling unbeliever is introduced in some passages, yet 
in all those on account of which the hypothesis itself was 
framed, he gives a safe, probable, reasonable, and useful 
sense, without the questionable assistance of this daring 


theory- Dr. Clarke also, after noticing this principle of 
interpretation, says, "I am not convinced that the book 
has any such structure." And as the book itself contains 
no intimations of a dramatic structure, it is for those who 
propose the theory, to prove it ; it is sufficient for those 
who reject it, to allege the want of proof. 

But it may serve at once to show why such a theory was 
invented, and how truly needless and uncalled for it is, if 
considerate attention be granted to some observations on 
the peculiar, plain and characteristic style of this book. 

In the plan of this book, Solomon appears to have been 
influenced by an opinion similar to what has been expressed 
by a great modern writer, (Burke,) who says, " I am con- 
vinced that the method of teaching which approaches most 
nearly to the method of investigation, is incomparably the 
best ; since not content with serving up a few barren and 
lifeless truths, it leads us to the stock on which they grew; 
it tends to set the reader himself on the track of invention 
and to direct him into those paths in which the author has 
made his own discoveries, if he should be so happy as to 
have made any that are valuable." 

In presenting to us the results of his extensive exper- 
ience and observation, Solomon also lays open his method 
of investigation ; not, however for the purpose of directing 
us into the same paths ; but rather to warn us from a track 
so thoroughly explored, and so full of danger and disap- 
pointment. He intimates that his examination had been 
so complete as to preclude the necessity of any re-examin- 
ation by persons of inferior opportunities : " For what can 
a man do that cometh after the King ? Even that which 
hath been already done." Ecclesiastes ii. 12. 

The book is an ample treatise, in a very concise style, 
on two great conclusions, at which Solomon had arrived by 
the road of persevering experimental inquiry. The first is,. 
that whoever seeks his principal satisfaction, or his chief 


good, in temporal possessions, pleasures, and pursuits, 
though he should possess all conceivable advantages for 
the execution of his plan, will be totally and miserably 
disappointed. Besides many other statements to this effect, 
his words in the second verse of the first chapter, and the 
eighth of the last, are, " Vanity of vanities, saith the 
Preacher, all is vanity." His other great conclusion is, 
that, though a good man may suffer many temporal evils 
and vexations ; and though a wicked man may live and 
prosper, notwithstanding his crimes ; yet this is absolutely 
certain, that in the end, " it shall be well with them that 
fear God " ; but, " it shall not be well with the wicked " ; 
and that the chief good of man is to be found in fearing 
God and keeping his commandments ; " for, God will bring 
every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether 
it be good, or whether it be evil." 

The treatise on these points is presented in the interest- 
ing form in which the matter of it grew in the writer's mind, 
as an important and essential part of his personal history. 
He makes us the companions and partakers of his thoughts, 
experiments and emotions ; and takes us with him from 
the beginning to the end of the investigation. He informs 
us that he was at first encouraged to attempt so vast a 
series of experiments, by the consideration, that he had 
eminent qualifications, for trying all the varieties of worldly 
joy, and for judging of all he tried. He avows his great 
object, to " see what was that good for the sons of men, 
which they should do under the heavens all the days of 
their life." (Chap, ii 3.) His disposition being highly 
voluptuous, and insatiately inquisitive, co-operated with 
his design. He gave his heart to seek and search out by 
wisdom, concerning all things that are done under heaven ; 
and he withheld not his heart from any joy. He confesses 
that, in his search for the chief good, he tried not only the 
probable and promising sources, but, for the greater practi- 

A A 


cal certainty, he. also proved the unlikely and unpromising, 
mirth and wine, madness and folly, as well as wisdom; but 
that he trod them for the end of wisdom, and his wisdom 
remained with him ; in his wanderings he still kept in 
sight the grand aim of his investigation, and retained both 
the desire and the ability to judge aright of all which he 
experimentally examined. 

In proceeding to give us a history of his own mind, in 
connexion with this comprehensive enquiry, he intimates, 
that his strong declaration of the vanity of things temporal 
was never intended to deny, that some satisfaction is 
afforded by the reasonable and grateful use of God's 
bounties, and by the pursuits of wisdom. 

On these subjects, besides his two principal conclusions, 
as to where the chief good can not, and where it can, be 
found, there are in various parts of the book several. subor- 
dinate conclusions. He acknowledges that, notwithstand- 
ing the complete failure of his proposed end, he had a 
lively satisfaction, for a time, in the active and varied 
means ; for his heart rejoiced in all his labour (Chap. ii. 10.) 
And he saw that, notwithstanding the insufficiency of 
wisdom, if taken to be the chief good, yet, " wisdom excel- 
leth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness." He also 
acknowledges that, for a man " to make his soul to enjoy 
good in his labour, is from the hand of God : for God 
giveth to a man that is good in his sight, wisdom, and 
knowledge, and joy." (Chap. ii. 24-26.) And a man's powre 
to enjoy wealth, "to eat thereof, to take his portion, and 
to rejoice in his labour," is declared to be "the gift of 
God." (Chap. v. 19.) From such passages it appears that 
his declaration of the vanity of the world was made with 
discrimination, and designedly guarded by subsequent 
distinctions and limitations. 

The paragraph which contains the text records two of 
his subordinate conclusions, in which he determines that 


it is right and wise to make the best use of temporal 
enjoyments and opportunities. Some have certainly un- 
derstood his complaint of the vanity of all things, in a 
sense more absolute and unrestricted than he intended. 
His actual decision appears to have been, that all things 
are vain, not absolutely, but relatively; vain if enjoyed 
in an idolatrous spirit, and put in the place of God. Who- 
ever tries them in this way against Solomon's warnings, will 
be brought to his bitter conclusions, by a stern and mighty 
compulsion, as invisible, but as invincible, as the universal 
force of gravitation, or as the silent energy that impels us 
onward from the cradle to the grave. While Solomon 
sought his chief good in temporal things, as something 
which they contained, or could bestow, notwithstanding 
some satisfaction in the intelligent activity of the pursuit 
itself, his disappointment on the whole was complete and 
disheartening : hence the sad emphasis of his reiterated 
complaint, in which he utters his swelling emotion, as well 
as his full conviction; and therefore speaks comprehensively, 
leaving details and exceptions to subsequent observation. 
But in this chapter, and particularly in this paragraph, some 
of those restrictive observations occur ; and in these, the 
sober, thankful, and temperate use of present things is 
commended. After some mournful observations on the 
erring and destructive course of the multitude, in which 
he laments that " the heart of the sons of men is full of 
evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and 
after that they go to the dead," he remarks, " But to him 
that is joined to all the living there is hope ; " because he 
has yet opportunities to improve his present condition, 
and to secure his future happiness. And after showing 
how total is the separation of the departed from the enjoy- 
ments, opportunities, passions, and interests, of the life 
they have quitted, he proceeds to counsel the living; who 
still have opportunities for enjoyment and for duty, in the 


following manner : — " Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, 
and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now 
accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always white ; 
and let thy head lack no ointment. Live joyfully with 
the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy 
vanity : for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy 
labour which thou takest under the sun. Whatsoever thy 
hand findeth to do, do it with thy might ; for there is no 
work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, 
whither thou goest." (Chap. ix. 7-10.) Here, in effect, he 
advises, that we take the things of this life for as much as 
they are worth ; remembering that more cannot be made 
of them than God designed. But God intended some good 
to us by his creative bounty ; and what he intended for us 
may be found ; though what he left " wanting cannot be 
numbered." In short, the Preacher counsels us to enjoy, 
dutifully, the present gifts of God, and to use all the 
present opportunities of doing what is right and needful 
tp be done ; for it is now that God accepteth man's works 
and services ; and there are things to be done in this life 
which cannot be done in another. This is one of the most 
important of his subordinate conclusions, the supreme 
necessity of doing timely and effectually whatever ought 
to be done. 

This review of the peculiar plan of Ecclesiastes has 
presented occasion to perceive and to remark that there is 
one excellence in the style of thought and expression, in 
this work of Solomon, which is also a characteristic of the 
writings of St. Paul. 

Both the Eoyal Preacher, and the Apostle of the 
Gentiles, first state and assert the truth strongly, and 
afterwards strongly limit and guard it. They lay down 
general maxims, with a free and comprehensive fulness. 
They argue with a power, brilliance, and kindling vehe- 


mence, which resemble the fire and force of lightnino- 
But with all this amplitude and energy, in the statement 
and enforcement of general truths, they show a watchful 
recollection of details ; an advertance to all reasonable 
exceptions, limits and precautions ; a judge-like sobriety, 
impartiality, and circumspection ; which are quite as 
extraordinary as their force and grandeur ; and are very 
rarely united with views so vast, and eloquence so im- 

But it is another peculiarity of these great writers, great 
even among the inspired, that their limitations of great 
general truths do not always stand in immediate connexion 
with the full and bold statements which require to be 
bounded and qualified. Their large, general statements 
have to be carefully collated with their subsequent observa- 
tions on points of exception and discrimination ; and this 
circumstance, added to the weight of meaning with which 
their concise expression is loaded, demands a pains-taking 
attention to the general scope, which the indolence of 
readers is often indisposed to exert. 

The want of such attention in readers, and not any real 
inconsistency in the writers, has sometimes occasioned the 
serious misapprehension, that they seem to deny in one 
place what they teach in another. Inattention to the 
general design of much of the Apostle's argumentation, 
combined with a microscopic magnifying of some of his 
expressions, dismembered from their proper connexion, has 
led to such grave mistakes as, that, by way of displaying 
and exalting divine sovereignty, he makes it a government 
of despotic caprice, and unreasoning wilfulness, by assert- 
ing an unconditional predestination of individuals to 
eternal life or everlasting wrath. 

Inattention to the general scope of these inspired penmen 
has been combined with another fertile source of miscon- 


struction, namely, the extensive influence which the 
partisans of monastic austerity and seclusion exercised for 
more than a thousand years, over the majority of scripture 
readers and interpreters. 

Those partisans found in the writings of St. Paul some, 
commendations of a single life, as suitable and convenient 
during the hazards of extensive and continued persecution; 
and, forthwith, in the strongest spirit of special pleading, 
they assumed a general excellence and merit in celibacy ; 
entirely overlooking Paul's limitation of the advice to 
seasons of persecution, his admission that even then 
marriage was not sinful, and his prophetic reference to the 
corruptions of a later age, in which prediction he classes 
the forbidding of marriage amongst doctrines of devils. 

In a similar manner have misconceptions of the doctrine 
of the Eoyal Preacher been produced and perpetuated. 
The monastic views of Christian holiness, having had the 
ascendency in schools, and colleges, and pulpits, during so 
long a course of ages, still tinge the opinions and 
prejudices of many religious persons of various churches, 
to a degree of which the individuals themselves are often 
unconscious. Those who refused to distinguish between 
the use and abuse of temporal things ; and who were for 
sending believers to the hermitage, the monastery, or the 
desert, as the only scenes in which Christians could be 
kept unspotted from the world, were equally disposed, by 
the same sweeping precipitance of judgment, to assume 
that Solomon, "in his repeated declarations of the vanity 
of worldly schemes of happiness, was altogether of their 
mind. But when they found that, in the same book, a 
temperate and thankful use and enjoyment of the bounty 
of Providence was not only not reprobated, but actually 
recommended, their relutance to see and admit that the voice 
of inspired reason could be against their undistinguish- 


ing proscription of all temporal satisfactions, stimulated 
them to invent the theory, that such passages were inserted 
as the observations of a worldly character, whom they 
supposed to be holding debate with the Preacher, pleading 
the uncertainty of the invisible and future state of man, 
and advising to make the most of present advantages as 
the only ascertained realities. 

Some who do not hold all the extreme opinions of the 
recluses of the cloister and the wilderness, have understood 
Solomon's complaint of the vanity of all things, in a sense 
not much different from the sentiments of those who are 
in the habit of saying, " There is nothing but trouble in 
this world." And they are predisposed to adopt the 
theory which others had invented, because, if they can be 
persuaded that those passages which allow some value and 
use of temporal blessings, express the views of a worldly 
caviller, they can then more easily and securely retain 
their crude and gross misapprehension of Solomon's com- 
plaint. The theory was at first contrived to get rid of 
such observations, by ascribing them to a bad source, and 
explaining them in a bad sense. But to suppose that 
Solomon agreed with those who say, "There is nothing 
but trouble in this world," is a melancholy mistake. 
There are many things here besides trouble; many 
precious gifts of divine goodness ; many reasonable and 
religious enjoyments. That proverbial saying is unworthy 
of any sound mind, and inconsistent with due gratitude 
for creative bounty : much more is it unworthy of the 
comprehensive intellect and inspired wisdom of Solomon. 
The supposition of a second speaker in this book is gratui- 
tous. In the Song of Solomon, an attentive reader easily 
perceives, from internal evidence, that much of that book 
is composed in a dramatic form ; but in Ecclesiastes there 
is no obvious dialogue. 


Even that passage in the seventh chapter, which, as 
rendered in our Bibles, "Be not righteous over much," 
has been the chief motive with some respectable divines 
for admitting the theory of two speakers, is, as several 
eminent men have shown, quite capable of a good and 
useful interpretation. Melancthon, Bishop Hall, Water- 
land, and Scott, are named by Mr. Benson, as writers who 
consider that text to be an inspired caution against strain- 
ing right into wrong, by exacting the extreme of personal 
rights, or administering justice with unmitigated rigour. 

On such grounds, it is presumed that this theory, which 
supposes some parts of Ecclesiastes to express the senti- 
ments of an unbeliever, may be put aside as needless and 
unauthorised, and therefore intrusive and mischievous ; 
and that the whole book, collectively, may be deemed to 
express Solomon's own meaning, and the meaning of the 
Great Spirit which inspired him. 

3. It is proposed to show, that the obvious meaning of 
the text is consistent with other parts of the book, and 
with the general doctrine of the Scriptures. 

It is true that if one were obliged to receive the rejected 
hypothesis as a help to the interpretation of this book, it 
would be easy to put a bad sense on each part of the text. 
But it is just as easy to explain the whole in a natural 
manner, and with a signification worthy to be taught by 
the wisest of men. If the text could be clearly traced to 
an unbelieving objector, it might be supposed to recommend 
that we should make the most and best of this life and its 
enjoyments, on the ground that we could not be sure of 
any conscious existence after death. But, receiving the 
text as the inspired word of Solomon, it is proper to 
remember, that it would be unfair to any ancient writer in 
a dead language, to judge of its meaning from an isolated 
fragment of a sentence, without taking in the subject, 


context, and scope, as explanatory of difficult expressions. 

Observations, in a strain similar to those in the latter 
part of the text, are made in the fifth and sixth verses ; 
observations which, at the first view, seem to deny to 
the dead any knowledge or consciousness ; but they are 
considered by two of our excellent commentators as spoken 
of the dead in reference only to the knowledge, interests, 
and passions of this life. " ' The dead know not any 
thing ' of the actions and events of this world, as this is 
limited in the next verse," says Mr. Benson. " Also their 
love, and their hatred, and their envy is now perished ; 
neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing 
that is done under the sun." On this Dr. Clarke observes, 
" It is evident that he speaks here of the ignorance, want 
of power, etc., of the dead, in reference only to this life. 
And though they have no more a portion under the sun, 
yet he does not intimate that they have none any where 

It is in the spirit of these comments to say, that, 
"Whatsoever thy hand fmdeth to do," does not mean, 
whatsoever we have power and inclination to do, but all 
things that are proper and necessary, all that ought to be 
done ; and that the general meaning of the latter part of 
the text is, not that the dead are absolutely ignorant and 
inactive, but that the things we are required to do in this 
life cannot be done in the grave, or in that hidden state of 
being into which death will introduce us. 

The writer of this book is usually understood to teach 
the same doctrine, namely, that our life and our probation 
end together, when he says in the eleventh chapter, " If 
the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the 
place where the tree falleth, there it shall be/' 

The following passages will show that Solomon's strong 
manner of declaring that the dead have done with the 


opportunites of a state of trial is not singular in the 
Hebrew Scriptures : " What profit is there in my blood, 
when I go down to the pit ? Shall the dust praise Thee ? 
shall it declare Thy truth ? " " Wilt Thou show wonders 
to the dead ? shall the dead arise and praise Thee ? Shall 
Thy loving kindness be declared in the grave? or Thy 
faithfulness in destruction ? Shall Thy wonders be known 
in the dark ? and Thy righteousness in the land of forget- 
fulness ? " " The dead praise not the Lord, neither any 
that go down into silence." "For in death there is no 
remembrance of Thee : in the grave who shall give Thee 
thanks ? " " His breath goeth forth ; he returneth to his 
earth, in that very day his thoughts perish." "For the 
grave cannot praise Thee, death cannot celebrate Thee : 
they that go down into the pit cannot hope for Thy truth. 
The living, the living, he shall praise Thee, as I do this 
day." Thus strongly do the Old Testament writers speak 
of the state of the dead, as incapable of eu joying the 
opportunities, or performing the duties, of the living. 

"With equal strength, but greater clearness, the New 
Testament writers declare the limited duration of our 
days of grace, and the hopeless ruin of those who, at the 
close of life, are still unprepared. Let the following from 
amongst many passages, be considered as testimonies of 
the Divine Author of the whole Scriptures ; who is of the 
same mind, whether he speaks by Solomon, or by Paul, or 
by " His Son whom He hath appointed heir of all things." 
" Strive to enter in at the straight gate ; for many, I say 
unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 
When once the Master of the house is risen up, and hath 
shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to 
knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us/' " There 

hall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see 
Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the 


kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out." Luke xiii. 
" Behold now is the accepted time ; behold, now is the day 
of salvation." 

From the various facts and reasonings which have now 
been presented, it is not unreasonable to conclude, that 
there is no need to take the text in an accommodated 
sense, in order to make a moral and religious use of it; and 
that, without reserve, deduction, or incumbrance, its direct 
and proper signification, as the inspired word of Solomon, 
gives broad and firm ground for enforcing a timely and 
strenuous attention to the greatest interests and duties of 


" Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might ; for there is 
no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou 
goest."— Ecclesiastbs ix. 10. 


This precept as it has been attempted to show in the 
former sermon on the text, is of the highest human and 
inspired authority; a precious portion of the wisdom of 
Solomon, and of the word of God. 

Solomon wrote other books, which are lost. " His songs 
were a thousand and five. And he spake of trees, from the 
cedar tree that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that 
springeth out of the wall. He spake also of beasts, and of 
fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes." God had 
given him "wisdom and understanding exceeding much, 
and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea 
shore :" a transcendent capacity, penetration, and energy 
of mind, to which the acquisition and communication of 
knowledge were easy and delightful : a universal genius, 
which desired and attained a consummate mastery of the 
policy of government, and the prudence of common life; 
which enabled its possessor to combine the excellencies 
and honours of a sagacious statesman and a moral and 
religious teacher, of an exquisite poet and a profound 
natural philosopher, with the rare felicity of a popular and 
magnificent king ; whose personal ascendency, on account 
of his deep and shining wisdom, added so greatly to his 
other advantages of birth and station, that it was probably 
the great means by which God " bestowed upon him such 
royal majesty as had not been on any king before him in 

Knowing as we do, that the writer was endowed of God 
with so many, great, and rare gifts, if this text had come 


down to us, not in the Bible, but in some of those unin- 
spired works of Solomon, for the preservation of which 
Divine Providence was less engaged than for those which 
were a portion of Holy Scripture, even in such a case, the 
incomparable authority of this great man would have 
entitled the passage to our most respectful consideration. 

But the text has higher authority than belongs to the 
greatest and wisest of human or angelic minds ; it is the 
word of that Omniscient Spirit, by whose inspiration all 
holy Scripture is given. 

It is proposed in this second sermon, 

To consider the matter, maimer and motives, of the 
course of action which the text enjoins. 

The first subject which it presents for our consideration 
is the matter of what is enjoined, namely, <( whatsoever our 
hand findeth to do ;" meaning, whatever is proper and 
needful, whatever ought to be done. 

Let us, then, consider what things are eminently proper 
and necessary to be done in this life ; and let us survey 
them in an order corresponding with their comparative 
importance and urgency ; placing first what is best, 
greatest, and most immediately necessary. 

1. When we inquire what ought to be done first, the 
answer is not left to our fallible judgment : a greater than 
Solomon has said, " Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and 
His righteousness." 

The kingdom of God is a Jewish phrase, which w T as 
naturally suggested to the teachers and people of Judea, 
by the theocracy under which their forefathers dwelt safely 
in the best times of their nation; and by the predictions 
concerning the Messiah, in His kingly character. By the 
kingdom of God, the hearers of our Lord would understand 
a revival of the theocracy, under the Christ, as the heir of 
David's throne, and reigning, like him, by divine appoint- 
ment, over the people of God. The kingdom then about 


to be set up was, in fact, a great and glorious extension of 
the theocracy, then subsisting in the church among the 
Jews. The visible throne, and the form and force of 
temporal royalty, were to be laid aside ; but the spiritual 
dominion was and is to be strengthened and extended by 
the gospel dispensation, till Christ shall have dominion 
" from sea to sea, and from the river unto. the ends of the 
earth:" till "all kings shall fall down before Him; all 
nations shall serve Him;" and the whole earth "shall be 
filled with His glory." "And the earth shall be full of the 
knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." "And 
the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the king- 
dom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people 
of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting king- 
dom, and all dominion shall serve and obey Him." 

The kingdom of God includes the pure and heavenly 
order, the divine safeguard, and the inspired happiness, of 
those who have fled from the cruel and destructive reign 
«of sin, to the just, merciful, and peaceful government of 
God; who are delivered from the Egyptian bondage of 
Satan's kingdom, and have become the subjects of "the 
blessed and only potentate," on the liberal and beneficial 
terms of being children and heirs of God, partakers of His 
throne and felicity, a family or brotherhood of kings and 
priests, who shall reign with God for ever and ever. The 
present blessings and privileges of the souls that acknow- 
ledge His government are, "righteousness, peace, and joy 
in the Holy Ghost;" and, hereafter, as joint-heirs with 
Christ, they will be glorified together with Him." 

"We must of necessity, be either wretched slaves under 
Satan's kingdom of darkness, or rescued subjects and 
adopted heirs of the glorious kingdom of God. The only 
liberty which this necessity allows, is liberty to choose or 
change our master. It is on record, that, in various 
instances when our Eastern empire had been enlarged by 


conquest or by treaty, considerable numbers of the subjects 
of Hindoo sovereigns removed within the British frontier, 
soon after its new boundaries were publicly known, that 
they might escape the vexatious caprices and oppressions 
of native misrule, and enjoy the blessings of justice and 
peace under a better government. On the same principles 
of plain personal interest, it is our first duty to ourselves, 
and our soundest prudence, to " seek first the kingdom of 
God, and His righteousness." 

There is but one way to escape to this holy and peaceful 
kingdom. The truth concerning that one, only way, is 
plainly stated in the liturgy of the Church of England, 
where it declares that God "pardoneth and absolveth all 
them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe His holy 
gospel." He who does not repent, cannot and will not 
come to Christ aright. He who undertook our deliver- 
ance, and who must be supposed to know His own plans 
and institutions, has taught that without repentance we 
perish; and that "this is the work of God," the work 
which He most requires and approves, " that ye believe on 
Him whom He hath sent." Faith, the immediate condi- 
tion of our salvation, viewed as God's gift, is a divine 
conviction of things whose present existence, and future 
fruition are not apprehended by our natural senses or 
faculties, but by a spiritual perception and illumination : 
and viewed as man's act, it is a movement of the soul, 
whereby it submits to Christ, trusts in Christ, receives and 
embraces Christ, and commits itself entirely to Him, in 
full confidence of His power and will to save. Pray for 
this divine conviction, use this light of divine illumination, 
exert this inward effort of the soul, and flee to the king- 
dom of God. 

Those who have not thus sought and found refuge and 
peace, under God's protecting government, are still under 
hard bondage to Satan, miserably tied and bound with the 


chain of their sins; and if they continue to neglect that 
great salvation, which they might enjoy in the righteous 
kingdom of God, will soon, with all their fellow captives, 
become hopeless, friendless, doomed partakers with those 
accursed angels, "the rulers of the darkness of this world," 
whom God "hath reserved in everlasting chains under 
darkness unto the judgment of the great day." 

Our escape " from the kingdom of darkness to the king- 
dom of God's dear Son," should have precedence of every 
other human pursuit. Nothing can be named which has 
an equal claim to attention and exertion. Out of God's 
kingdom you cannot serve Him, nor be at peace with Him, 
nor be safe from the wrath to come. If it is of any import- 
ance to please Him in whom we live and move, and have 
our being, and whose awful presence we cannot remove 
from us, for a single moment ; if it is at all desirable to 
avoid the remorseless tyranny of Satan and his angels, 
added to the calm, just, intolerable wrath of omnipotent 
peity; if peace of conscience, if joy and victory in death, 
if a place and a name in the book of life, when the dead 
small and great, shall stand before God, are essential to 
our well-being ; it is right, wise, and necessary, to seek 
first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. 

2. That which is entitled to the second place, as next in 
importance is, our own improvement in every attainable 
excellence of the mind, heart, and habits. The religious 
obligation of this does not stand in modern opinion, or 
uninspired authority In addressing a church which stood 
high in his esteem, and against which he had no complaint 
to urge, St. Paul, after many other fatherly counsels, pro- 
ceeds in the manner of one summing up to say, " Finally, 
brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are 
honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are 
pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are 
of good report ; if there be any virtue, and if there be any 


praise, think on these things." (Philippians iv 8.) A due 
consideration of this glorious charge, which reads like an 
exhortation of a great commander to a noble army, must 
convince us that Christianity is not the stiff, contracted, 
barren, unamiable thing, which some of its professed 
friends, as well as its open enemies, have misdeemed it to 
be; and that the careful improvement of the whole man, 
heart, mind, soul, and strength, in all intellectual, moral 
and spiritual good, is not a mere matter of capricious taste, 
which one may pursue and another neglect with equal 
innocence, but a great religious duty. As we have oppor- 
tunity, let us obey this inspired exhortation. It will prove 
one of the best tilings our hand findeth to do, to search 
and detect, to weed out, root up, and destroy, from our 
mind, heart, and habits, whatever is false, selfish, harsh, 
mean, grovelling, envious, petulent, or vain ; and to be con- 
stantly advancing and growing up in true nobleness of 
mind, in humility, sincerity, patience, mildness, in intellec- 
tual strength and purity, in union with Christ, and resem- 
blance to his excellence. 

Christians in common life, as well as those of high station, 
or noble birth, are called of God to this honourable and 
glorious course of self-improvement. " For unto every 
one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance." 
All who receive Christ are exhorted to " grow in grace, and 
in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ." 
Poverty, severe and exhausting labour, want of early cul- 
ture, and other unavoidable impediments, may preclude an 
illiterate Christian from aspiring to learning, science, or 
extensive general knowledge; but no circumstances can 
invincibly prevent his successful pursuit of all that is most 
excellent and laudable in human nature. 

As all true manliness was exemplified in the laborious 
life of shepherds and herdsmen, by Jacob and Moses, 
Gideon, David, and the prophet Amos; and in the lowly 



condition of fishermen, and of labourers in other necessary 
callings, by the Apostles of our Lord ; so in modern days, 
those who have inclination for the search may still dis- 
cover intelligent and noble-minded Christian peasants and 
labourers, who have their souls purified from hatred and 
envy, from vanity, discontent, covetousness, and base 
despondency; and refined, elevated, and enlarged by the 
rich and holy feelings of experimental religion, by fellow- 
ship with saints, and communion with God, and by " the 
thoughts that wander through eternity." I, for one, know, 
that among the religious poor, there are persons, who, 
though unlearned, are wise ; who, though unpolished, are 
truly courteous ; who, in want, difficulty, and suffering, are 
humbly magnanimous ; who, though cramped in their 
external condition, have an unaffected largeness of heart : 
who, without the curious and exact information which 
science furnishes to the educated classes, behold the beauti- 
ful green earth, the ever fresh glories of morning, the 
many-coloured clouds of sunset, or " the moon walking in 
brightness " amidst the calm grandeur of the starry firma- 
ment, as Job, David, and the Prophets, or the first pair in 
Paradise, beheld them ; receiving, along with the deep im- 
pression of visible power and glory, from the varied abun- 
dance and immensity of creation, an inexpressibly glorious 
sense of the unsearchable riches and bounty, the awful 
beauty and majesty, the unfathomable being and perfection, 
of the omnipresent Spirit, the Creator, Upholder, and 
Possessor of all. 

Such happy persons have " purified their souls in obey- 
ing the truth through the Spirit ;" and are guided and sus- 
tained by that Spirit of adoption, which is also the Spirit 
of wisdom and power. With the Holy Spirit for their 
guide in perusing the volume of nature, in searching the 
Scriptures, in observing the ways of Divine Providence, in 
communing with men and with their own heart, and in 


meditating on these rich and varied sources of instruction, 
they are enabled to learn from each those transcendent 
truths of godliness, which comprise all that is most impor- 
tant for fallen creatures to know, that they may be wise 
unto salvation. If other sources of knowledge are opened 
to them, they will receive and contemplate with delight, 
" whatsoever things are true;" but in the absence of human 
learning, they have before them, in the venerable examples 
of Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles, in the history and 
precepts of Jesus, in the society and fellowship of his 
living disciples, and above all in the scriptural character 
of God, and in the inspiration and indwelling of his Holy 
Spirit, the finest aids and encouragements, for contemplat- 
ing and realizing whatsoever things are honest, just, pure, 
lovely, venerable, virtuous, or laudable. 

To prefer, as is commonly done, the improvement of our 
fortune to the improvement of our souls, is a gross blunder, 
an illiberal, grovelling meanness, of which all who are born 
of God, and all rational and immortal natures, ought to be 
ashamed. A mind self- cultivated, purified, enriched, and 
adorned, in the manner recommended by the Apostle, is a 
nobler possession than the wealth of Croesus with the glory 
of Alexander, and the dominion of the Caesars. 

3. After the salvation and cultivation of the soul, the 
comforts of the present life, including the wants of the 
body, may lawfully claim our time and attention, as a part 
of the things which our hand findeth to do. The context 
recommends the simple and dutiful enjoyment of temporal 
comforts. The scriptures do not require or countenance 
monkish austerities. But the natural desire for such things 
as are needful and convenient is in most men so strong, 
that far from needing to be exhorted to those pursuits 
which minister to the body and its appetites, mankind 
rather need to be cautioned against sacrificing the soul to 
its frail habitation, and losing their eternal inheritance by 
he mismanagement of their life estate. 


4. But, " none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth 
to himself." We cannot insulate ourselves, so as to be un- 
affected by the various influences which flow upon us 
from our fellow-beings, and to avoid exerting any influence 
upon others. Whether we will or no, we have fellow- 
creatures ; their co-existence with us involves them and 
ourselves in a vast mass and multitude of reciprocal in- 
fluences; and the relative duties, arising from our situation 
amongst them, are not matters of taste and convenience, 
but of unavoidable sacred obligation. Our intercourse 
with others must be either for good or evil ; it cannot 
be wholly indifferent. But if we wish to do and receive 
good, we must choose the means as well as the end. We 
must pay the price : for good will not be done with wishing. 

But where shall we begin to do good to others ? False 
philosophy would direct us to begin with the most expan- 
sive universal benevolence. This is plausible but imprac- 
ticable. We must begin (where our influence itself begins) 
at home. 

5. The individuals of the family to which we belong, as 
the heads or members of it, are to be regarded next to our- 
selves, and as ourselves. If we have parents, brethren, 
sisters, husband, wife, children, servants, and friends whose 
kindness has bound us to them as to our mother and our 
brethren, to promote their everlasting well-being is one of 
the most proper, needful, and excellent things our hand 
findeth to do. 

In seeking the good of friends and kindred, we should 
be guided by the same principles as in our own case ; for 
we are to love them as ourselves. Therefore it is right so 
to care for ourselves as to seek, first, salvation, secondly, 
moral and spiritual improvement, and thirdly, temporal 
comfort ; it is also right to observe the same order in our 
care for those who are dear to us. But in the practice of 
many professedly religious persons, this rational order is 


confused or inverted. Without any conscious intention of 
disarranging these weighty matters, many do practically 
place first, tender care of the bodies, and indulgence to the 
feelings, fancies, and petty vices of their children ; second, 
provision for temporal prosperity, by a good business or a 
fortune ; third, salvation of the soul : but real mental and 
spiritual improvement, that which most purifies and en- 
nobles our whole being, and leads from self-knowledge, 
self-cultivation, self-denial, and the cross, to all true excel- 
lence, is often left out altogether. 

A servant of Christ, of either sex, at whatever age, 
under whatever circumstances, can never have cause to 
lament the total want of an open door of usefulness. 
Whoever has true religion, with an humble and simple 
willingness to do good according to his actual opportunities, 
may find at hand ample and noble occupation, worthy of 
his highest faculties and best endeavours. A Christian 
father and mother may be poor, obscure, and afflicted ; but 
in helping each other to walk in all the commandments 
and ordinances of the Lord blameless ; in having a child 
to restrain from sin, and instruct in the way of salvation, 
they have power and opportunity to link together, under the 
eyes of God and His blessed angels", an everlasting chain 
of moral causes and effects ; for the influence of their 
parental reproofs and chastisements, counsels and exhorta- 
tions, will be spread beyond the ken of mortals, through 
time and through eternity. 

But let every Christian parent remember that there is 
no ready and easy way to discharge parental duties, or to 
train up a child in the way he should go. There is no 
substitute for prayerful, conscientious, patient pains- 
taking. For such objects as a child's salvation, and 
spiritual improvement, we must be willing to try again, 
and again, and again, without ceasing, till some ground is 
gained. God will bless such labours ; they will not end 


in vanity. And to have your children reconciled to God, 
and made good, wise, and noble-minded, is an incomparably 
better provision for their welfare, than the largest fortune, 
with a poor, narrow, vulgar, vain, petulent, envious mind, 
and a heart full of sin. Never be induced to omit such 
endeavours by the suggestion that, after all, you cannot 
give your children grace. That is true; but nothing to 
the purpose. The husbandman ploughs his field, and casts 
the seed into the ground, and " sleeps and rises night and 
day, and the seed springeth and groweth up he knoweth 
not how." And it never occurs to him as a practical 
objection against the preparatory labour which he bestows 
in hope, that he cannot command the sunshine, the rain, 
and the wind, nor explain the mysterious operations of 
germination and growth. God is as wise and faithful in 
administering the kingdom of grace as the kingdom of 
nature ; and will as willingly give grace to the children of 
faithful parents as He will give showers and sunbeams to 
the tiller of the ground. If any of you are striving to 
tr£in children for God, amidst the difficulties of depressing 
poverty, in the obscure corners of humble life, with no 
encouraging eye or voice of man to countenance you, let it 
be enough that the eye of the King of saints benevolently 
watches over you and yours. The lips of men may not 
praise a consistently religious parent ; but it is sufficient 
for a pure mind that the end is well chosen, the means 
suitable, and that the "eye of the Lord is on them that 
fear Him, on them that hope in His mercy." 

As in your own case, after the general improvement of 
your children or dependents, the next object of attention 
and exertion is " providing for honest things, not only in 
the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.'' 
Neglect not the body, while you prefer intellectual and 
spiritual objects. Let not right be ever strained into 
wrong. Let every duty and interest be attended to, but in 
proper order. 


6. The next thing the hand of a good man will find to 
do, is to render all possible service and aid to the church and 
cause of Christ ; beginning with that religious connexion 
to which the individual is himself united. There are 
weighty practical reasons for placing this after family 
duties. We have seen some attempting to do good 
throughout an extensive circle, by assisting to hold 
Sabbath-evening prayer-meetings in the villages all round 
about their own residence, while the good they were bound 
to attempt in the centre of that circle was neglected as an 
inferior and slighted thing ; their own children being left, 
without parental restraint to break the Sabbath, in the 
vilest company, and in the most public manner. Even 
with such mistakes, we esteem religious sincerity wherever 
we recognise it ; but let us not adopt the mistake while we 
give credit for meaning well. Home is the first place for 
the exertion of zeal for Christ, and good-will towards men. 

But those who are God's faithful priests in their own 
families will not be so merciless to their kind, nor so cold 
in the cause of Christ, as not to care whether their 
neighbours are going to heaven or to hell ; nor can they be 
so ungrateful to their Saviour, as not to be zealous to 
advance His kingdom, and show kindness to his friends. 
They will obey Him who said, " A new commandment I 
give unto you, that ye love one another ; " and, " Ye are 
My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." 

Blessed are they, (whether they be " dry trees," or child- 
less persons, or whether they be parents of a numerous 
offspring,) to whom the church and the cause of Christ are 
precious, and who " choose the things that please God, and 
take hold of His covenant." Unto them says God, " I 
will give in Mine house, and within My walls, a place and 
a name, better than of sons and of daughters ; I will give 
them an everlasting name which shall not be cut off." 
When the corruptions of the sanctuary in the time of 


Ezekiel had provoked God to the uttermost, until He said, 
" I will deal in fury : Mine eye shall not spare, neither 
will I have pity : and though they cry in Mine ears with 
a loud voice, yet will I not hear them : " He then dis- 
tinguished those who bcre true affection in their hearts to 
His cause and honour. The prophet in vision heard Him 
say, to one who accompanied His avengers, " Go through 
the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and 
set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and 
that cry for all the abominations that are done in the 
midst thereof." And when He commanded His execu- 
tioners with destroying weapons, saying, " Go through the 
city, and smite; let not your eye spare, neither have ye 
pity : slay utterly old and young. Defile the house, and 
fill the courts with the slain : " He then also charged those 
pitiless destroyers, saying, " But come not near any man 
upon whom is the mark." The Lord who changeth not 
has the same regard for sincere religious zeal in all ages : 
still " His servants take pleasure in the stones of Zion, 
and favour the dust thereof; " and still His distinguishing 
mark is " upon the men that sigh and that cry for all the 
abominations that are done " around them ; and upon those 
who pray for the peace of the spiritual Jerusalem, and who 
love her prosperity. 

Set yourselves, therefore, with a perfect heart and a 
willing mind, to the service of Christ in His cause and 
people, by instructing ignorance, by reproving sin, by 
upholding Christian ordinances, by giving of your time, 
talents, labour and substance, as God hath endowed you, . 
for the maintenance and advancement of truth, righteous- 
ness, and love. 

7 After those duties of loviug zeal which we owe to 
the church and cause of Christ, it is enjoined upon us, 
that " as we have opportunity, we do good unto all men ; " 
and the exhortations, " Love the brotherhood, fear God, 


honour the king," are preceded by the charge to " honour 
all men." Whatever is truly humane, liberal, and public- 
spirited, is naturally produced by that love of our neighbour 
which universally accompanies the love of God shed abroad 
in the heart. St. John argues that the professions of those 
who say they love God, and are destitute of brotherly love, 
not only are not true, but cannot be true. " For he that 
loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love 
God, whom he hath not seen ? And this commandment 
have we from Him, that he who loveth God, love his 
brother also." 

As Christians are not countenanced by the Scriptures in 
withdrawing from the duties of common life on pretence of 
superior sanctity, neither are they at liberty to separate 
themselves from social ties for the selfish purpose of being 
snug and quiet, and free from outward annoyances. The 
Christian is not to withdraw like a spider to the centre of 
his web, nor to retire within the narrow circle of personal 
comfort and convenience, but to let his light shine before 
men, being ready to every good work, and in all things 
adorning the doctrine of God his Saviour. The child of 
God naturally feels a concern in the good or ill of his 
neighbour, his country, and mankind. The new nature he 
has received in being born from above, and the principles 
he learns from the word of life, equally determine him to 
general benevolence. The love of Christ constraineth him 
to love all men, because Christ died for all. 

8. These comprehensive classes of duties our hand 
findeth to do : they are proper, they are necessary, and 
ought to be done. 

Who can justly complain of having no considerable or 
important sphere of action ? To attend effectually to our 
own salvation, spiritual improvement, and temporal com- 
fort;- to aid children, relatives, and friends, in the same 
pursuits; to love and help the cause and friends of our 


Lord ; to have the whole race of mankind for brethren, — 
are obligations which belong to all, and will sufficiently 
pre-engage the time and talents of all. 

But some will rather murmur at the abundance of duties, 
and their own insufficiency for the multifarious and 
unceasing task. The uncandid excuse of such persons 
frequently is, "I can do nothing of myself;" which is 
strictly true, but not pertinent. Truths out of place, and 
truths mixed with lies, are some of the most imposing and 
dangerous of Satan's temptations. That we can do nothing 
of ourselves, (notwithstanding its literal truth,) is a dis- 
honest, equivocating, Antinomian plea, when urged as a 
reason for not endeavouring to do whatsoever is com- 
manded by the All-wise God, who knoweth our frame. 
God does not leave them alone who strive to do always 
those things that please Him : neither are men required 
to do any thing of themselves. The adversary who quoted 
and misapplied the Scriptures in tempting Christ, is 
equally sinister in perverting religious proverbs to the worst 

Let us steadily contemplate the importance, the diffi- 
culty, the sacred obligation, of the duties our hand findeth 
to do : and while we cry, " Who is sufficient for these 
things ? " let us acknowledge God our Saviour, by confess- 
ing His right to appoint our work, and His all-sufficiency 
as our helper : then will He direct our paths, and through 
Him we shall do valiantly. 

The contents of the text lead us to consider, in the 
second place, the manner in which whatsoever we have to 
do should be performed ; namely, with our might. 

This phrase has all the force and extent of what is 
frequently misquoted instead of it, " with all thy might." 
The word all adds nothing to the sense; for a man's 
might is his full strength : and the useless interpolation 
(which is also frequently and improperly introduced into 


the petition, "deliver us from evil") rather lessens both 
the strength and the elegance of the expression. 

Such duties as have now been pointed out deserve and 
require our might. Had we the faculties of the first arch- 
angel, we might task them nobly in the works which are 
given us to do ; for the highest powers are well employed 
in doing whatever is the will of God. And though it is 
criminal presumption and dangerous self-delusion for any 
to excuse themselves and evade their duty, by pleading 
weakness and inability, let every reader be warned that 
the things he is bound to do cannot be done with indolent 
endeavours. The weakest must use all the strength they 
possess; the strongest will find that they have nothing 
over, but must exert their might. 

In order to have the full use and advantage of our actual 
might, a right method is necessary. If two strong men 
work at the same task, the one awkward and unwieldy* 
depending on mere muscular force, the other dexterous 
both from habit and from prompt contrivance ; it will be 
seen that while the first wastes the greater part of his 
strength in efforts which accomplish little work, though 
they distress and weary the workman, the other applies 
his exertions with decided aim, with sure effect, and with- 
out useless fatigue, so that his whole ability is rendered 
serviceable to the work. For the great duties of life, we 
want an energy so guided and managed as to ensure the 
best results in the greatest possible abundance. 

1. In order to do every duty as it ought to be done, we 
must act with the might of solemn conviction. Supposing 
equal inclination in both cases, any one can act more 
powerfully in what his judgment approves, than in what 
he regards with doubt, or knows to be wrong. The way 
to such conviction is by the road of thorough examination 
and honest reflection. Our blessed Lord teaches that it is 
for want of consideration that the word has no effect on 


wayside hearers : and God complains, saying, " Israel doth 
not know, my people do not consider/' It is necessary 
that the conviction be solemn : not a cold and careless 
assent to transcendent truth, but such a conviction as 
engages the heart and the will with the judgment. For 
want of this, much moral strength lies dormant. Effectual 
conviction is wanting because serious consideration has 
been neglected. And duties are unperformed, often even un- 
attempted, because there is no full and affecting conviction. 

2. But the strongest conviction is worse than useless, a 
mere blasted blossom, if not matured into fruit by an act 
of the mind, producing the might of well-considered 

Do not suppose that it is here forgotten how vain it is 
for the sinner to resolve in his own strength. He wants to 
have peace without repentance, faith, and holiness ; and 
therefore resolves that without giving up all sin, he will 
make certain immediate, or at least speedy, but limited 
reforms, in his life : and will afterwards, at a convenient 
season, more fully turn to God. He only wants to move a 
little further from the danger; and is willing to take respite 
in a false peace. Satan, meanwhile, laughs at his efforts 
and determinations ; well-knowing that one sin will pre- 
serve his whole kingdom in that self-deluded soul. 

But so far is it from being vain and useless for a Chris- 
tian, or a true penitent, to make strong resolutions, that it 
is absolutely necessary. Without fixed purposes, nothing 
great or good can be done. " He that wavereth is like a 
wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed ; " and, " a 
double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." It is 
recorded concerning Eehoboam, that, though in some great 
affairs of his family and kingdom, " he dealt wisely," and 
though on some occasions of public danger, he was obedient 
to divine reproof and " humbled himself, so that the wrath 
of the Lord turned from him," yet, on the whole, and in 


the general conduct of his life and reign, " he did evil, 
because he fixed not his heart to seek the Lord." When 
Jehoshaphat was reproved and threatened for his close 
alliance with wicked Ahab ; he was also expressly com- 
mended, because, in general, he had set his heart to seek 
God. And it is afterwards said of Jotham, that "he be- 
came mighty, because he established his ways before the 
Lord his God." 

Why should we not resolve, with our might that, by 
God's help, we will go to heaven ? Why should we ever 
allow ourselves to waver in such a purpose ? Why should 
we need daily to make fresh resolves in a case so plain ? 
Can we ever need renewed consideration to determine 
whether it is proper and necessary to flee from the wrath 
to come, to take Christ's yoke upon us, and to follow Him 
as our leader and commander to heaven ? What have we, 
once convinced of their vanity, to do any more with idols ? 
He who can never refer to his decisions as final, is always 
laying foundations ; spending his days of grace amidst the 
rubbish and ruin of un-used materials and demolished 
beginnings; often commencing afresh, never building up, 
finishing nothing ; and at last surprised by death, amidst 
the hurry and hesitation of altered plans, intended recom- 
mencements, and confused preparations for action. 

3. To conviction and determination, add the might of 
incessant diligence. Almost all the great works ever 
achieved by man have been produced by a long series of 
successive efforts, in which each single exertion,, however 
great in itself, bore a very small proportion to the consum- 
mate grandeur of the result. Great cities, temples, and 
pyramids have been raised, not like an exhalation, called up 
from the earth by magical incantation, or by the song and 
harp of demi-gods, but by the plain, slow labour of adding 
stone to stone. But our diligence must be spiritual, not 
mere bodily exercise ; and obedient, not fanciful and 


officious ; not neglecting the things which are commanded, 
and offering as a substitute some busy, bustling task of our 
own device ; but doing with earnest simplicity what God 
requires ; and devoting our efforts especially to that vigi- 
lant and jealous keeping of the heart, which is needful 
above all other diligence. 

4. Let our well-principled and resolute diligence be 
inspired with the energy of religious fear and hope; the 
most powerful of general motives. The whole system of 
divine administration, as set forth in the Scriptures, pre- 
supposes the supremacy of fear and hope amongst the 
feelings that influence mankind to do, to forbear, or to 
suffer. They are appealed to in the threatenings and the 
promises ; and are necessary and useful in every stage of 
our spiritual progress. If hope is feeble in your heart, if 
the things promised do not sufficiently affect you, have 
recourse to the quickening stimulus of sacred fear ; think of 
the wrath to come ; of the dreadful certainty and intolerable 
weight of that ruin which will fall on him who neglects 
the great salvation. But it is far nobler and happier to be 
moved by religious hope. If living by faith, (which you 
should ever do,) you will derive from divine conviction of 
things hoped for, but not seen, a strong hope ; which, like 
a favouring gale, will fill your sails on the voyage to 
heaven. "Work out your own salvation with fear and 
trembling ; n not with a slavish and desponding trepida- 
tion, but with a solemn, stirring, inspiriting sense of the 
impending nearness, the surpassing glory and terror of the 
things eternal. 

5. But all that have been mentioned will finally avail 
nothing, unless you also obtain and exert the might of a 
supernatural strength : 

" Strong in the strength whiclTGod supplies, 
Through His eternal Son." 

Without Him we can do nothing. In order to have this 


imparted might, you must be born of God ; and henceforth 
have His Spirit of power abiding in you, cleansing the 
thoughts of your heart, and keeping them ever clean, by 
His ceaseless inspiration. Or to adopt another view under 
which our Lord has represented our dependence on His 
grace for all spiritual life and efficacy, we must be grafted 
as living branches, upon Him the Immortal Vine ; and so 
abide in vital union with Him, that His life-giving Spirit, 
as the stock on which we grow, may continually transfuse 
into and through our spirits, as His branches, the sacred 
energy, the living stream, without which we wither; but 
which, while we abide in Him, will make us strong, 
flourishing, and fruitful. Samson in his exploits of mar- 
vellous vigour, did not differ more from Samson shorn of 
his hair and weak as another man, than any one human 
spirit, in an unconverted or backsliding state, differs in 
moral ability for all works of righteousness, from the same 
spirit when endued with power from on high, and vigorous 
with that life whose perpetual spring is hidden with 
Christ in God. 

As it is by faith that we receive this spirit of power, it 
is by love that we are to exert it. Faith is the medium 
that unites us to that mysterious strength ; and love is the 
medium through which the heavenly energy operates in 
active righteousness. There is an unmeasured might, not 
born of the flesh, nor of the will of man, in that invincible 
grace of love, which "beareth all things, believeth all 
things, hopeth all things, endureth all things/' and " never 
faileth;" which will outlast all that is preparatory and 
instrumental in the operations of grace on earth, and will 
abide, with all perfect things, in 

" The house of our Father above, 
The palace of angels and God." 

In order to have more of this divine strength, we must 
use what we have, and ask for more. What we do not use 


will be taken aw,ay ; but " to him that hath shall be given, 
and he shall have abundance." These divine supplies of 
spiritual might are like the widow's oil and barrel of meal 
which wasted not; and like the few loaves and fishes 
multiplied by miracle for the sustenance of thousands. 
There is "enough for all, enough for each, enough for ever;" 
and as our day, our strength shall be. " My grace," says 
the Lord, " is sufficient for thee ; for my strength is made 
perfect in weakness." 

6. The great things we have to do, demand the whole 
man, the might of a disencumbered and vigilant soul. We 
must lay aside every unnecessary weight ; and put from us 
every useless thing that would retard or entangle us. The 
racer does not run for the prize in long and heavy gar- 
ments; and "no man that warreth entangleth himself with 
the affairs of this life." 

That attention to worldly affairs and duties, which it is 
lawful and safe for a Christian to bestow, is not a thing 
which stands out separate and distinct from his religion ; 
but is comprehended and regulated by his religion, as a part 
of itself. We must not attempt to " serve God and mam- 
mon ; " but remembering that " whatsoever is not of faith 
is sin," while we are "not slothful in business," we must 
" be fervent in spirit/' so as in and by that business to be 
" serving the Lord." Whatsoever we do in word or deed, 
we must "do all in the name of the Lord Jesus ; " in sub- 
mission to his authority, and in regard to his glory. 

Scriptural religion is thus consistent and comprehensive ; 
and in order that, in obedience to its inspired direction, we 
may do with our might whatever ought to be done, we must 
reserve our time, strength, attention, and affection, for 
these things : saving all that can be saved from needless 
business and care ; from deceitful enervating pleasures ; 
from unprofitable amusements ; and especially shaking off 
those numerous artificial necessities which monopolize the 
time and dissipate the thoughts of those who timidly 


or indolently submit to be ruled by fashion, custom, and 
ceremony. Save all you can from needless, useless, or mere 
voluntary engagement of your moral power ; that you may 
give all you can to the best and most indispensable duties. 
Give up the approbation of fools, the painful acquisition of 
wealth, with all frivolous and sordid things, that you may 
apply your whole unembarrassed might to that doing of 
the will of God, which, excelling and surviving the world 
and the lust thereof, will abide for ever. 

7. In addition to all that has been mentioned, we want 
the might of a warrior fully armed and disciplined for de- 
fence and for action. Every judicious warrior puts off 
whatever would uselessly burden him, or impede the full 
exertion of his strength ; puts on what will conveniently 
and securely defend each vital part ; and takes to himself 
the most approved and effectual weapons. The difference 
between a weak man totally unarmed, and a strong man 
cased in mail, with helmet, shield, spear, and sword, is not 
so great as the difference between a negligent, unguarded 
soul, and the circumspect soldier of Christ, who puts off 
by self-denial every incumbrance, and takes to himself all 
the defences and arms of holy warfare which can be 
derived from the word of God, from the means of grace, 
from the fellowship of saints, and from the communion 
and inspiration of the Holy Ghost. 

Almost all that is pertinent or needful to be stated and 
urged on this subject, is already expressed with nervous 
simplicity by our sacred poet : — 

" Soldiers of Christ, arise, 
And put your armour on, 
Strong in the strength which God supplies, 
Through His Eternal Son. 

Stand then in His great might, 

With all His strength endued ; 
But take, to arm you for the fi.^ht, 

The panoply of God. 

C C 


Leave no unguarded place, 
No weakness of the soul ; 
" Take every virtue, every grace, 
And fortify the whole. 

To keep your armour bright, 

Attend with constant care, 
Still walking in your Captain's sight, 

And watching unto prayer.-" 

Such are the chief elements of spiritual might : solemn 
conviction ; well-considered determination ; incessant dili- 
gence ; religious fear and hope ; supernatural strength, 
sought by prayer, received by faith, and working by love ; 
the unsparing sacrifice of incumbrances ; and the putting 
on of the whole armour of God. He who will carefully 
and earnestly unite and exert all these, in humble reliance 
on the ever-present help of his Saviour, will still, indeed, 
feel that he is an unprofitable servant, but he will so do 
whatsoever his hand findeth to do, that he will finally 
receive the vast rewards which are promised " to him that 
overcometh ; " and to them, who thus " by patient continu- 
ance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and 
immortality," God will render " eternal life/' 

It was proposed to consider, in the third place, the 
motives by which the text enforces the course and manner 
of action which it enjoins. These are expressed by the 
following words : "For there is no work, nor device, nor 
knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest." 

1. It is undeniable that we are going to the grave. 
" The living," if they know anything, " know that they 
shall die." All the paths of life lead to death. Neither 
wealth, nor want, nor grandeur, nor insignificance, nor 
daring strength, nor timid circumspection, can evade or 
overcome this stern necessity. 

Our familiar knowledge of the fact, that we are all going 
to inevitable death, naturally disposes us to regard the 
distant danger like all common things, with blunted sensi- 


bility, and generally with indifference and neglect. But 
when the danger actually approaches, the familiar truth is 
suddenly armed with the intense and painful interest of a 
new and alarming discovery. To contemplate death at 
uncertain and obscure distance, with negligent foresight of 
the final event, and habitual hope of immediate security ; 
boasting of to-morrow, because our life has been an 
unbroken series of daily escapes, — is a plausible, self- 
deceiving process, so often repeated by most of us as to 
have grown up to a tenacious mental habit. Our sense of 
the mighty coming danger is deluded and weakened 
through our careless, if not willing mistake in classing the 
delayed, inevitable hour, which comes but once, amongst 
other natural changes which come irresistibly at uncertain 
seasons. We thus unwittingly learn to expect our disso- 
lution in the same vague, uncertain manner that we expect 
rain or wind, clouds or sunshine : we look for them all, we 
depend on their coming, but our conduct is influenced by 
the consideration that they come at intermediate and 
irregular times. The influence by which surrounding 
objects move us to resolve and to act is not the true and 
proper nature of the objects themselves ; it is the impres- 
sion or notion, whether strong or weak, mistaken or correct, 
which is received from the objects, and afterwards, either 
wholly or partially, vividly or dimly, retained in the mind. 
According to this course of our nature, either through the 
pressure of other present interests, or through the familiar 
commonness of death, as a long foreseen object, our sense 
of its nearness and awful certainty is obscured and weak- 
ened; and then the alteration thus made in our impres- 
sions alone affects our conduct as if it were a real change 
in the dreaded object. The only actual change is, that our 
variable impressions have become dim and weak, yet we 
take courage to feel and to act as if death itself had been 
made remote or doubtful. We become familiar with the 


name and idea of death, and then proceed as if we had 

tamed the monster itself. We forget that we are going to 

the grave, and then act as if forgetfulness had made us 

immortal. Thus are we often deceived, both in vigorous 

health, and in moderate sickness ; but in the moments of 

short suspense on the brink of the dark abyss, it is found 

that the various causes which so long diminished the idea, 

have not diminished the tremendous reality. It is then 

felt that the vast importance of that great change in our 

mode of being is as indubitable as our constant, compulsory 

journey to the grave. And it is equally beyond doubt or 

debate, that it is pre-eminently necessary to be provided 

and prepared for that world to which we must go, to which 

we know ourselves to be incessantly going; and, that we 

may be so ready, we must now do, with our might, what 

God has given us to do. 

2. The chief meaning of the other expressions in the 
text — "no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom/' 
— is, that now, during our journey to the grave, is the only 
time to prepare and provide for that unseen, but awfully 
real world to which death will remove us. What ought to 
be done here cannot be done there. This life and the life 
to come were ordained by the Master of life for different 
and separate uses ; and He will not permit us to mingle, 
confound, or exchange them. The knowledge and enjoy- 
ments which He has reserved for that future life cannot be 
anticipated ; no living man may lift the veil with which 
He has covered that mysterious realm ; nor will it be 
allowed to the departed to unite with the immense and 
momentous discoveries of eternity, the precious, peculiar, 
awful privileges and opportunities of time. 

God has given suitable, sufficient, seasonable aids and 
opportunities ; but human perverseness would labour at 
the wrong time. Now is God's time for helping man to 
work out his salvation; for accepting man's submission to 


the Gospel, for dispensing pardons to believing penitents ; 
for employing His reconciled subjects and adopted heirs in 
doing good to men, and serving the cause of Christ. To 
seek the Lord by repentance and praying faith, to serve 
Him with obedient love, to warn the wicked, to relieve the 
wretched, to feed and watch the flock of God, to spread 
and promote truth and righteousness, are works which 
God " now accepteth " from man ; but He will not have 
these done in the grave. If we' neglect them now, we may 
unexpectedly die, in the midst of unfinished purposes, and 
still premeditated plans of amendment ; and then God will 
give no opportunities. 

It seems from one part of revelation, which opens some 
awful glimpses into that hidden region where the departed 
have their being, that the damned are not permitted to do 
good. The rich voluptuary who cried to Abraham across 
the great gulf, and failed in his request for a drop of water, 
was reminded of the great truth which the latter part of 
the text implies, that there is no road, no access, from 
heaven to hell, nor from hell to heaven. For this cause, 
that lost one next requested that his five surviving brethren 
might receive a warning visit from Lazarus. A visit from 
the dead brother himself would have been more impress- 
ive ; but it appears he had no hope of being allowed to 
perform, after death, a duty of brotherly kindness which 
he had neglected all the days of his life. 

If we die in the unrepented and unpardoned neglect of 
what God requires at our hands, all which remains is, that 
among all the monsters of wickedness, among the miser- 
able multitudes who are forsaken of all good, and shut up 
from all help and hope by the bars of the pit, we must 
endure the righteous, intolerable punishment. From the 
day when " the waters of Noah " overwhelmed the drown- 
ing millions of the old world, those "spirits in prison," 
with all who have since been driven away in their wicked- 


ness; with the people of Sodom and Gomorrah; with the 
Egyptian host that died in the depths of the Eed Sea; 
with Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and all their company ; 
with Balaam and the thousands of Moab and Midian who 
fell with him before the sword of Joshua ; with the extir- 
pated nations of Canaan, whose iniquity was full; with 
the sinners, the Amalekites, whom Saul and David cut off; 
with the army of Sennacherib, smitten by the angel of the 
Lord ; with the impenitent Jews who perished at Jerusa- 
lem, when the last temple was destroyed; with all the 
famous enemies and persecutors of the saints, and all the 
nameless and obscure crowds of guilty spirits, whom the 
sun by day, and the moon by night, during forty centuries, 
have watched from earth to the invisible world ! — all that 
innumerable host gathered from all ancient and all modern 
nations, have found, to this day, that, "though hand join 
in hand," though all the dead generations assemble and 
confederate, yet "the wicked shall not be unpunished/' 
All that bodiless multitude, in all the ages since the gates 
of prayer were shut against them, have found no means, no 
season in that world, to perform the neglected duties of 
time, or to ivork out their salvation. 

Neither in the intermediate state between death and 
judgment, nor in that abyss of dark futurity which shall 
follow the last day, can all the conspiring subtlety of that 
lost multitude invent any device to evade or mitigate their 

In the grave, those who hated the knowledge of God, and 
did not choose the fear of the Lord, will call, but He will 
not answer ; will seek Him, but never find, 

And there can be no sphere of operation for wisdom, 
where there is no choice. It is the office of wisdom to 
direct us to choose the best ends, and to show us the best 
means for obtaining them. But in the outer darkness 
amidst the noise of weeping and wailing and gnashing of 


teeth, among the raging and blaspheming spirits, who have 
neglected what they ought to have done, and wasted their 
might in their own way, upon their own devices, in the 
service of the destroyer, there will be no occupation for 
wisdom ; no end for wisdom to choose when all is over ; 
no means for wisdom to employ when all is lost ; no opera- 
tions or endeavours for wisdom to guide where change is 
impossible; no sphere of action, influence, or counsel, for 
that wisdom which comes too late. 

Let every reader reflect upon this, that the things which 
ought to be done are so required at his hand, that he 
cannot shake off his responsibility, and will not be per- 
mitted to evade it. He must do or die. The gospel itself, 
with all its gracious freeness, does not make void, but 
establishes this law. " To him that knoweth to do good, 
and doeth it not, to him it is sin." The offer of full 
pardon, through repentance, and faith in the atonement, 
does not cancel the obligation, nor preclude the necessity, 
of doing with our might whatever ought to be done. He 
does not repent who still wishes that he could have impu- 
nity in sin, that for his corrupt convenience God would 
relax the strictness, and stain the purity of His holy law. 
He who does repent, acknowledges His righteous obliga- 
tion to perform every duty with his might. None but 
penitents receive the atonement through faith : the true 
believers show their faith by their works ; and only the 
diligent will be found of Christ, " in peace, without spot, 
and blameless." 

Let it also be remembered, that the works which are 
given us to do, demand our might. If we presume to 
think that less than our might will avail, fearful will be 
the penalty of our presumption. He who will not strive, 
shall seek in vain to enter the straight gate. 

And what you do, reader, do quickly You are going 
to the grave. The judge standeth at the door. Whether 


you make haste or linger, the great question, Whether you 
will be lost or saved, — will soon be determined. Now all 
may be decided and performed ; in a few days all will be 
over. And the first moment after death, whether it place 
you with the blessed or with the tormented, will produce 
intense conviction, that God's gracious commands ought to 
be done, that they deserve and claim to be done with your 
might, and that opportunity and power to do them are 
granted only while you are yet going to the grave — now or 



(not in his works) 



Crown 8vo. , 6s. 

" A style of preaching replete with elegant and ornamental illustration. 
He has exhibited a model of pulpit eloquence, consisting of such combinations 
of the beauties of rhetoric with the simple and majestic force of truth, as it 
would be difficult to parallel in any merely human composition. "--Rev. 
Joiiatlian Croivther, late Classical Tvtor, Didsbury College, near Manchester. 

"In the age of Chalmers and Hall, Watson took rank amongst them as 
their equal. He belonged to the highest order of humanity ; and though his 
genius was different from that of his most gifted contemporaries, yet, in fact, 
it was second to none. "— James Dixon, D. D. 

Letter from Rev. A. K. M'Callum, M.A., Glasgow. 

"To Rev. Wm. Willan. — My dear Sir, —Allow me to thank you sincerely 
for your volume of the Rev. Rd. Watson's ' Sermons and Outlines.' The 
Christian world is under a deep obligation to you for supplying it with one of 
the most precious and richest gems which the age has produced. It is worthy 
of the setting. Your own Biographical Sketch of the Great Preacher and 
Theologian beautifully and truthfully sets forth the precious jewel. 

"The Works of the Author of the 'Christian Institutes' are not so well 
known in the North as they ought to be ; and yet his maseuline and majestic 
grasp of thought, his imperial and boundless sweep of imagination, and his 
keen, logical, and powerful analysis, are qualities which the North pride 
themselves for appreciating. You have conferred on us a lasting blessing in 
introducing us to such a mine of Christian wealth. I could conceive no 
greater boon bestowed upon c r younger brethren in the Wesleyan Ministry 
and other bodies, than that some of our merchant princes, to whom God has 
given the means, should present them with a copy of 'Richard Watson's 
Sermons and Outlines." 

" None of the fruits of such literary toil should be withheld from the church 
of Watson's choice, or from Christendom at large ; for the praise of this 
majestic preacher was 'in all the churches.' Mr. Willan has done good ser- 
vice in the Biographical Sketch. We rejoice in the appearance of a volume 
for the people upon the history and characteristics, and containing specimens 
of the quiet, but overwhelming pulpit power, of the prince of Methodist 
preachers/ —The Watchman. 

" There is more in this book than the title indicates. Besides an interesting 
biographical sketch by the Editor, there is an essay, which, in our estimation, 
merits the highest eul«gium as a piece of criticism ; and a brilliant article 
from the pen of the singularly gifted Dr. Dixon. The Sermons and Outlines 
we can honestly recommend as very superior productions." — Christian World. 

" Mr. Willan has done good service by reprinting the two admirable essays 
on Mr. Watson's character and writings ; and the Outlines recorded by the 
tasteful friend of Mr. Atherton, render no disservice to the great reputation 
of Mr. Watson. The first of them which I examined is wonderfully impress- 
ive. It ascends the loftiest regions of sublime thought as by the bold and 
easy movements of an eagle's wing ; and in a few words of marvellous light 
and power, at once convinces the judgment, searches the conscience, and fills 
the imagination with grand and solemn conceptions. Several of the Sketches 
are similarly instinct with a startling vitality. Brief, pungent, and vivid, they 
are in the highest degree suggestive. As different as possible from fleshless 
skeletons, they grapple with the will, alarm the fears, and animate the heart 
of the thoughtful reader. They wield the power of appropriate words with 
a dazzling and subduing mastery ; showing a command of language quite the 
reverse of verbosity, and such as those writers and speakers who have fre- 
quent recourse to loose current phraseology, strive for in vain." — Rev. Isaac 

"This volume will be specially welcome, not simply to the great com- 
munity, the Wesleyans, of which Watson was such a pillar and an ornament, 
but to the universal Church. Of Mr. Watson's Sermons little need be said. 
His name was a guarantee for everything appropriate to such compositions. 
In his ' Outlines ' young preachers of all classes and conditions, and of every 
community, will most materially find their account." — The British Standard. 

" The Sermons and Outlines are, in the highest degree, worthy of the lofty 
genius and intense piety of their author. The volume also contains two pro- 
foundly interesting chapters— one on Mr. Watson's character and writings, 
by the Rev. Dr. Dixon, and the other on his life, by Mr. Willan, to whom we 
tender our best thanks for introducing us to such a mine of sanctified wealth." 
— The Voleraine Chronicle. 

"The present volume is a posthumous work, but no one acquainted with 
Watson's genius will doubt its geuineness. It bears the indubitable stamp of 
the great theologian's mind. We have read many Sermons and Outlines of 
Sermons, but these of Watson's are out-and-away the best that have ever 
come under our notice."— Newcastle-upon-Tyne Northern Daily Express. 

"The rtiscourses contained in this volume, with the exception of four, are 
here given for the first time. The Rev. Dr. Dixon, son-in-law of Mr. Watson, 
has allowed his able article on the character and writings of Watson to be 
republished in the present volume, the value of which is further enhanced by 
Mr. Willan's concise, but comprehensive biographical sketch. Of the Sermons 
and Outlines, we need only say that they are produced in a form worthy of 
their learned and eloquent author." — The Methodist Recorder. 

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"This is an interesting, well-written, and useful volume, worthy of an 
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"This work bears evidence of its having proceeded from a heart glowing 
with the subject to which it is devoted ; and it is written in a style well calcu- 
lated to convey the warmth of the writer to the spirit of his reader. A 
manual of the leading points of -'the theology of the heart/ and of the things 
pertaining to salvation, it is experimental and practical. The style is simple 
and chaste, yet vivid and striking ; and we very heartily commend it to our 
readers." — London Quarterly Review. 

" A good book, on a subject than which none is dearer to the heart of the 
Christian : as seasonable as it is needful : fit for the parlour table, as a substi- 
tute for the light and unprofitable reading too much in vogue now with pro- 
fessing Christians ; and fit also for the closet, to assist the devout and earnest 
disciple in the important duty of self-examination."— Watchman. 

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" The style is vigorous and well sustained, in many passages very eloquent, 
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" It is masterly and eloquent." 

" It ought to be sown broadcast over the whole land." 

"Certainly it evinces a master mind guiding a well-trained pen."— From 
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" I consider that you have rendered Wesleyan Methodism a real service by 
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"I thank you for your very interesting Letter on Wesleyan Methodism, 
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"Your excellent pamphlet. Such utterances, manly, candid, respectful, 
and with no tinge of obsequiousness, are very timely."- From a Clergyman. 

"Your most admirable pamphlet I have read twice over, and my impression 
is that it is a most able, candid, and thoroughly correct view of the relations 
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